Woman Sues Over McDonald's Wages Placed on Debit Card

Would you like fees with that?

A Pennsylvania woman wants just the beef, not the fees she says she'll be charged to get her McDonald's wages from a debit card.

Single mom Natalie Gunshannon has filed suit over bank fees that allegedly include $1.00 to check her balance, $1.50 to withdraw cash and $15 to replace a lost card.

Gunshannon, who lives near Wilkes-Barre, spent a month working at a McDonald's drive-thru when her work as a home health aide dried up. 

When she complained about the fees on the JPMorgan Chase payroll card, she was told there were no other payment options. She never accessed the $200 account, but instead filed a lawsuit last week that has kept her lawyer's phone ringing from low-wage workers across the country.

"The kicker was, if I use it at a gas pump, they can do a hold of $50 for up to five days,'' said Gunshannon, 27. ``I can't even afford to get gas.''

Nearly 4 million U.S. households, or 3.2 percent, have someone receiving wages on a payroll card, according to a 2011 survey by the FDIC, the Federal Deposit Insurance Company.

Gunshannon's lawsuit names franchise owners Albert and Carol Mueller, who employ about 800 people at 16 McDonald's restaurants in northeastern Pennsylvania.

"It doesn't seem fair that an employee has to pay bank fees to get their lawful money that they earned,'' said her lawyer, Michael J. Cefalo. ``They're squeezing the most vulnerable part of our society.''

The Muellers, in a statement, said they strive to follow the law and ``work hard to provide a positive work experience for all our employees.'' They declined to discuss specifics, but asked that people not jump to conclusions.

Each state has its own laws about how wages must be paid. In Pennsylvania, the Wage, Payment and Collection law states that employers ``shall pay in cash or by bank check,'' according to material sent Tuesday from the state Department of Labor and Industry.

Many employees are trying to move away from the cost of issuing paper checks, in favor of direct deposit or payroll debit cards. The latter, depending on the fees, can be beneficial for people who do not have bank accounts.

"People should be paid without having to pay a fee to access (their wages),'' said Michelle Jun, a senior attorney with the Consumers Union in San Francisco.

JPMorgan Chase spokesman Mike Fusco said that cash withdrawals at Chase and its affiliate banks, along with merchandise purchases, are typically free for payroll card users.

"With all of the options to access cash for free, it is much less (costly) than any check-cashing store,'' Fusco said.

Gunshannon, who belongs to a credit union, said she has seen too many friends fall into credit card debt. She still hasn't accessed the money she made at McDonald's, but said she and her 7-year-old daughter are getting by with help from her fiance.

"I'm just hoping there will be another minimum wage job I can find. And maybe, if I'm lucky, something better,'' she said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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