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Can employers force you to receive wages on a fee-carrying cards?

People in Indiana are used to seeing the McDonald's fast-food franchise in the media's eye for two reasons: low-wage claims and its contribution to the obesity epidemic in the United States.  But soon, employment law followers across the nation could be seeing the company in the spotlight for another reason.

According to a recent class-action lawsuit out of Pennsylvania, the franchise owners of at least 15 McDonald's locations are accused of forcing their employees to receive their wages on fee-carrying debit cards.  A practice, one Pennsylvania attorney says, is against the state's Wage Payment and Collection Act.

Similar to our state's own wage payment and collection laws, the Pennsylvania statute only allows employers to make certain deductions from an employee's wages.  But as with Indiana law, the case will ultimately hinge on how the judge interprets the section of the statute that allows deductions as part of a payment to a credit union.  In cases of direct deposit to a credit union, deductions can be made for credit union fees provided the employee has signed for it.  But what happens when an employee does not want to pay the fee and does not sign the agreement?

In the Pennsylvania case, this is exactly what one employee did.  According to her complaint against the company, her employers did not give her the option of receiving a paper paycheck or direct deposit options into another account.  In the lawsuit, she claims that she was told by her employer that if she did not sign to activate the fee-carrying debit card then they could not pay her.  The ultimatum ultimately led her to quit and seek legal counsel.  Pursuing a lawsuit against the company, she says, is her way of making sure current and future employees get the right to choose how they want to be paid, especially if it prevents them from paying hefty debit card fees.

Source: The Orlando Sentinel, "McDonald's sued for paying Pa. employees with fee-carrying debit cards,"  Bob Kalinowski, June 16, 2013

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