NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — Workers in three states filed a series of class action lawsuits against McDonald's this week alleging multiple counts of wage theft. The seven lawsuits, filed in New York, Michigan and California, and claim that the fast food giant has been stealing from its workers for years by engaging in illegal tactics such as removing hours from time cards, refusing overtime, refusing to reimburse personal expenses and forcing employees to work unpaid time.

The plaintiffs' attorneys and labor organizers announced the lawsuit on Thursday in a conference call with journalists.

The specific allegations of each lawsuit differ, but all involve the central claim that McDonald's has been effectively stealing from its workers by not paying for all of their hours worked. Workers attached to two lawsuits in Michigan claim that their managers refused to begin paying employees until they felt enough customers had come into the restaurant, regardless of when they actually showed up for work.

Other allegations include California workers who claim that they don't get paid for all of their hours worked and New York employees who argue that the company requires them to pay for and maintain their own uniforms, effectively reducing their pay below the minimum wage.

All of these claims, if true, would violate federal labor laws regarding minimum wage and overtime pay and subject the company to back wages and potentially enormous fines.

"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," a McDonald's spokesperson wrote in an e-mail quoted by the New York Times . "We are currently reviewing the allegations in the lawsuits. McDonald's and our independent franchisees are committed to undertaking a comprehensive investigation of the allegations and will take any necessary actions as they apply to our respective organizations."

It is unlikely that branding franchise owners as independent, operators acting without the company's knowledge, will shield the corporation from liability if courts rule in favor of the plaintiffs. This is an argument that fast food companies have made in the past, however, and will almost certainly be part of their defense.

These lawsuits come as the latest in an upswell of the worker's rights movement over the past several years. Fast food workers have gone on strike repeatedly since November 2012 in an effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. They have successfully managed to push the issue into a national spotlight, and although no fast food companies have raised local wages as a result of this movement, workers have made it a hot button topic in Washington where President Barack Obama showed support for their cause by ordering the minimum wage for federal employees raised to $10.10.