Report: Subway Has Had The Most Wage Violations Of All Fast Food Companies

While McDonald’s has been the name on many people’s lips when it comes to wage disputes and underpaid workers, a new report places Subway at the top of the pile of wage violation offenders. Though it’s worth nothing that with 26,000 U.S. locations, Subway has the most stores of all the companies, as well.

CNNMoney cites data collected by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, which it says amounts to more than 1,100 investigations into individual Subway franchisees between 2000 and 2013, more than other companies like McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. Those came in second and third in the tallies of wage violations like pay and hour rules, respectively.

Those 1,100 cases found about 17,000 Fair Labor Standards Act violations combined, and amount to about $3.8 million paid out to Subway workers over that span of years.

Common incidents include employers making workers deduct 30 minutes for a lunch break even if the worker didn’t take a break, forcing workers to pay for a company uniform (which is a violation if the worker’s hourly rate falls below minimum wage after accounting for that expense), or failing to pay workers for time spent doing things like the nightly closing routine.

One franchise also illegally deducted money from employees’ wages to cover cash register shortages, repeatedly. That location was ordered to pay $9,900 in back pay to 72 employees.

Although Subway would likely distance itself as a corporate parent from these franchisees, the problems were bad enough to spur a partnership with the Department of Labor last year to boost the company’s compliance efforts last year.

“It’s no coincidence that we approached Subway because we saw a significant number of violations,” a Department of Labor spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts both issued statements placing themselves far from their independently operated stores. Fast food companies are wont to do that, because while each location bears the corporate name and look and use the same business guidelines, they’re essentially small businesses in their own right.

That’s partly why it’s so tough to crack down on wage violations — the DOL has to investigate each location individually, which takes time, and can’t bring about sweeping changes to the whole company.

Subway didn’t comment for CNNMoney’s article, but McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts did.


McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators share a concern and commitment to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald’s restaurants. Whether employed by McDonald’s or by our independent owner-operators, employees should be paid correctly. When McDonald’s learns of pay concerns in restaurants which we own and operate, we review the concerns and take appropriate action to resolve them. We trust that our independent owner-operators do the same. McDonald’s and our owner-operators employ separately but in total over 750,000 workers in the United States, and we caution against drawing broad conclusions based on the actions of a few.

Dunkin’ Donuts:

The Department of Labor report represents a very small percentage of cases per year involving the Dunkin’ Donuts system, given that there are more than 7,700 Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants independently owned and operated by our franchisees who employ approximately 120,000 crew members at any given time across the country. However, we and our franchisees, who are solely responsible for all employment decisions at their restaurants, take these matters seriously and are committed to the well-being and fair treatment of all crew members.

Subway leads fast food industry in underpaying workers [CNNMoney]

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