Top 10 Worst Fast Food Chains to Work For (Allegedly)

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Top 10 Worst Fast Food Chains to Work For (Allegedly)

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
Is a living wage from a chain restaurant too much to ask for? For this list, we're looking at fast food jobs you should avoid applying for, whether because of underpaying workers, severe health violations, or worse. Our countdown includes McDonald's, Subway, Taco Bell, Arby's, and more!
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Top 10 Worst Fast Food Chains to Work For


Is a living wage too much to ask for? Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 worst fast food chains to work for.

For this list, we’re looking at fast food jobs you should avoid applying for, whether because of underpaying workers, severe health violations, or worse.

#10: McDonald’s


It may be the biggest fast food chain on the planet, but McDonald’s has been in the news many times for wage violations and a string of lawsuits brought against it by its employees. In 2019 they settled one such lawsuit for $26 million after violating California labor laws by not paying overtime. That same year, female employees filed gender discrimination complaints; according to the ex-employees, when they raised complaints within the company their work hours were slashed so much they couldn’t afford their rent. Similar wage theft lawsuits were settled in New Zealand, while in the UK workers have gone on strike to try and force McDonald’s to raise wages and pay taxes.

#9: Subway


“Eat Fresh?” Yeah, we don’t think so. Employees have revealed that some stores only get two, sometimes just one, shipments of ingredients a week, so you could be eating vegetables that have been sitting around for days. And many Subway stores keep ingredients at the wrong temperatures, which can encourage bacteria growth. Employees are aware of the not-so-fresh food at hand but feel frustrated because they can’t do anything about it. An even bigger problem for employees: franchises are chronically understaffed. Sometimes just two people to work entire shifts - and extra-long shifts in some cases. In addition, store closures are happening at an alarming rate, making employment less secure..

#8: Taco Bell


It’s never going to be as good as home-cooked Mexican food, but this doesn’t mean Taco Bell doesn’t have extremely high standards for its employees. It’s frequently been called the hardest fast food chain to work for because of the precision in preparing every individual item so that they always look identical. Taco Bell’s commitment to this is so extreme that everything has to be weighed, and if your soft taco is 0.3 ounces more or less what it’s supposed to be, it gets thrown out and you have to make it again. And while they may have fewer lawsuits than most chains, in 2016 they had to pay $500,000 to employees for unpaid lunch breaks.

#7: Sonic


After getting slammed with numerous wage theft lawsuits, in 2017 Sonic signed an agreement with the US Department of Labor to improve its compliance with federal law. Unfortunately, this hasn’t had an impact, as Sonic made the headlines again in early 2019, when all employees at three of its locations in Ohio quit simultaneously. This happened when new management decided to slash wages from Ohio’s $8.55 an hour minimum wage to $4.00 plus tips, apparently oblivious to the fact that fast food workers rarely, if ever, get tipped. The ex-employees left signs in the windows explaining their situation to customers and walked, though Sonic denied the accusation.

#6: Jimmy John’s


In 2011, six Jimmy John’s employees were fired after making and distributing some memes showing two identical sandwiches claiming one was made by a sick worker and one was made by a healthy worker. They highlighted the fact that workers don’t get paid sick days so they are often forced to work when ill, which can put customers’ health at risk. This was initially upheld as an unlawful firing because making sick people work meant the chain was selling unsafe food. Unfortunately, in 2017 the decision was reversed. This isn’t the only thing Jimmy John’s has gotten publicity for, however; locations across the US have been sued for wage theft in 2014 and 2015.

#5: Popeyes


In August 2019, Popeyes launched its fried chicken sandwich and chaos ensued across the US when people couldn’t resist its temptation. But the craze was bad news for employees of the restaurant, who found it hard to cope with demand and angry customers when they ran out of the ingredients. One viral video showed an 8-year-old boy handling raw chicken at the location his dad worked at, which was incredibly short-staffed because of the sandwich rush; his father was later fired. There was even a fatal stabbing at a Popeyes in Maryland after someone cut in line - which doesn’t make employees want to work there.

#4: Wendy’s


When the Fair Food Program, an agreement specifically designed to protect the rights of tomato growers in Florida, was introduced in 2011, Wendy’s was the only fast food giant that refused to get on board. Wendy’s decided to outsource its fruit suppliers to Mexico, where the predominantly female workforce is subjected to lower pay and physical abuse. There are even cases of child labor. Wendy’s refuses to roll over and source its tomatoes from the US, which has led to numerous protests, as well as campaigns to boycott the chain entirely. The outsourced laborers may not be directly paid by Wendy’s, but they are working for them nonetheless.

#3: Arby’s


They might be famous for their roast beef, but you might get more meat than you bargain for at Arby’s. There have been at least two separate instances of human fingers being found in the food there, one in 2004 and another in 2012. A teenage boy made the grim discovery in his junior roast beef sandwich, and it was ultimately determined that this finger belonged to an employee of the chain who’d cut the tip of their finger off on a meat slicer. In 2004, a manager cut their finger off while slicing lettuce. This makes Arby’s the restaurant where you’re most likely to lose a body part if you work behind the counter.

#2: Burger King


New Zealand branches of Burger King have seen some particularly stringent policies come their way, including employees being “encouraged” to work unpaid overtime. This was in 2019, after the company had already been banned from hiring migrant workers in New Zealand for a year because they weren’t paying the minimum wage. In 2015, American Burger King workers staged protests to get a $15 minimum wage, while co-founder David Edgerton claimed that this would mean the company’s dollar menu wouldn’t be sustainable. And in 2014 in Canada, an employee of 24 years, Usha Ram, was fired for taking home a meal with permission from the manager; she won US$35,000 in damages due to wrongful termination.

#1: Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr


In 2017 Carl’s Jr was fined $1.45 million by the City of Los Angeles for not paying its workers the minimum wage. The company claimed that this was simply down to a payroll error, but they were also fined for refusing to let investigators speak to employees and refusing to inform workers of their rights. The CEO, Andy Puzder, was Donald Trump’s nominee for US Labor Secretary at the time, and the controversy around the fine was so severe that he had to step down. On top of this, the company has been flagged for having sexist commercials and being generally opposed to organization and labor activism.
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