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Fast-food workers face violence, many other dangers

People who work in fast-food establishments are on the front lines — literally. They regularly interact with customers (and non-customers) at the counter and in drive-thru lanes. Most of these interactions are unremarkable. Too often, however, they are violent.

Just this month, surveillance video captured a young McDonald’s employee being attacked by a man who reached across the counter and grabbed her. Other employees came to her assistance, and together they fought him off. Here in South Carolina, at another McDonalds, a customer in the drive-thru threw hot coffee in an employee’s face.

Other fast-food establishment employees, including those who deliver pizza, are too often victims of violence. Sometimes, they get robbed on their deliveries. Other times, it’s a disgruntled customer lashing out. In a 2015 survey of fast-food workers, 12 percent reported that they’d been the victims of assault in the past year.

Fast-food and other restaurant employees face additional dangers as well. In that 2015 survey, about two-thirds reported being cut and almost 80 percent said they suffered burns at work. In all, 87 percent reported being injured on the job in some way at least once in the past year.

Starbucks employees have reported finding needles in the bathroom trash, the drive-thru and elsewhere in their stores. One former employee says, “My primary fear when I worked there would be taking out the bathroom garbage. I was terrified that if I went to take the bag out, I would get poked by a needle….”

While these problems have likely been going on for decades, fast-food employees now have the power to take to social media with their concerns. They’re doing more than venting on Twitter, however. They’re organizing and calling on companies to provide training for handling violent patrons and to implement new security protocols.

Spokespeople from McDonald’s and Starbucks assert that they take their employees’ safety seriously and are taking steps to protect them from violence and other dangers. Starbucks has even said that it’s installing special boxes for people to throw away sharp objects and investing in heavier trash bags so that their employees are less likely to be injured by needles.

If you suffered an injury at work due to a violent attack or any other cause, it’s essential that you know your rights to seek compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages and other financial, emotional and physical damages.