A few weeks ago, Angely Lambert was serving customers at a McDonald’s on a bustling commercial strip in Oakland, California, when she started to feel ill on the job. Her sharp headache and dull body aches bothered her enough that she asked if she could go home, she told me, but a manager insisted that she finish her shift.
With the coronavirus pandemic raging in the Bay Area, the restaurant had put up barriers between its cashiers and its customers and passed out protective gear. But sick workers at the Telegraph Avenue McDonald’s were never told to self-quarantine, a group of employees have asserted in a lawsuit and in interviews with journalists. According to these workers, the company did not inform them that they might have been infected. They say that staff received little training on how to control the spread of the respiratory virus and that enforcement of social distancing was scant. The most baroque allegation in the suit: that workers were told to fashion protective gear out of doggie diapers.
Lambert later found out that she did have COVID-19, as did nearly a dozen of her co-workers and at least six of their family members. Everyone working in the restaurant was exposed. Still, making just $14 an hour in one of the highest-cost regions in the United States, with family here and in Honduras to support, Lambert kept working. “My colleagues and I were scared, but we couldn’t stay at home,” she told me.