The United States Department of Labor is investigating claims by an Argentinian foreign exchange student who says he was exploited by a Pennsylvania McDonald's franchise and forced to pay $3,000 for a work-study program
Jorge Rios, 27, says he paid between $3,000 and $4,000 for visa costs, plane tickets, and other expenses to be able to work at a McDonald's near Harrisburg, Pa., where his schedule swung from being forced to work up to 60 hours a week without overtime compensation to being limited to only four hours a week. He was paid minimum wage regardless of how much or how little he worked.
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"We expected to have 40 hours of work a week, but we were given as little as four hours a week at the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour," Rios said in a petition to Don Thompson, the CEO and president of McDonald's. "The employer knew we were desperate for more hours, and he kept us on call to come in with 30 minutes' notice all day and night. I didn't even have time to visit the public library."
The Department of Labor said private "host" companies often charge fees to help bring students to the U.S. for work-study exchange programs. A spokeswoman said the one Rios used will be investigated.
Rios, a student at the National University of Misiones, or the Universidad Nacional de Misiones, in Posadas, Argentina, came to the United States last summer. He and a few other foreign workers are also claiming the owner of the franchise charged them $300 a month to live in child-size bunk beds in a basement apartment he owned.
"As many as eight of us lived in a single basement. We slept on bunk beds made for children that shook and squeaked. We had no privacy whatsoever," Rios said in the petition.
The McDonald's franchise owner declined to comment, but a spokesman for the McDonald's Corporation released a statement addressing Rios's complaints.
"We take the well-being of the employees working in McDonald's restaurants seriously," the statement read. "We are working closely with the franchisee to investigate the claims surrounding his program."
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In the U.S. last summer, there were 73,808 people who participated in the summer work travel program, which has the goal of providing an American cultural experience to foreign students, according to ABC News.
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