Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) Granted Against McDonald’s For Failing to Keep Employees Safe from COVID-19

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[July 28, 2020] A temporary restraining order (TRO) was granted against a McDonald’s franchise by a California Superior Court judge in response to the franchise’s alleged inability to take proper precautions to keep the community safe from COVID-19. The TRO was granted in connection to a lawsuit, Hernandez v. VES McDonald’s, [1] filed by four employees and one family member of an employee, all but one of whom contracted COVID-19. The plaintiffs in Hernandez are pursuing multiple causes of action, including public nuisance, unfair and unlawful business practices, and violations of Oakland’s Emergency Paid Sick Leave Ordinance.

Judge Patrick R. McKinney issued the TRO on June 22, 2020, which forced the franchise to close until the Court determines whether a preliminary injunction will be granted. Judge McKinney granted the TRO against McDonald’s in an effort to protect against further viral transmission stemming from the franchise. Under the plaintiffs’ theory, the franchise’s failure to take greater precautions against COVID-19 is a public nuisance, which is defined in California as “[O]ne which affects at the same time an entire community or neighborhood, or any considerable number of persons, although the extent of the annoyance or damage inflicted upon individuals may be unequal.” [2]

Fast food closures across the United States have not been uncommon during the pandemic, and other plaintiffs in California have also filed lawsuits arguing that COVID-19 qualifies as a public nuisance. [3] Regardless of whether Judge McKinney ultimately grants a preliminary injunction against the franchise, the franchise will be required to stay closed at least until it is deemed safe to reopen by the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health. The motion for the preliminary injunction was originally scheduled for July 2, 2020, but has since been rescheduled for July 9, 2020.


[1] Hernandez v. VES McDonald’s (No. RG20064825, Superior Court of California, County of Alameda).

[2] California Civil Code Section 3480

[3] See, e.g., Esco v. Dollar Tree Stores, Inc. (No. 2020-00280479, Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento) (alleging that the employer failed to take proper precautions against COVID-19, including providing proper training and personal protection equipment)


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