McDonalds(NEW YORK) -- Some McDonald's employees will see their wages increase later this year, after the company announced new benefits for workers at its company-owned restaurants.
"We've been working on a comprehensive benefits package for our employees -- the people who bring our brand to life for customers every day in our U.S. restaurants," President and CEO Steve Easterbrook said in a statement. "We've listened to our employees and learned that -- in addition to increased wages -- paid personal leave and financial assistance for completing their education would make a real difference in their careers and lives."
Beginning on July 1, starting wages at company-owned locations will be $1 more than the locally-mandated minimum wage. Wages for all employees, including managers, will be adjusted based on tenure and performance, the company release says.
"By the end of 2016, McDonald's projects that the average hourly wage rate for McDonald's employees at company-owned restaurants will be in excess of $10," the release notes.
Workers at company-owned restaurants with at least one year of service will also begin to accrue personal paid time off. McDonald's says that an employee who works an average of 20 hours per week would be eligible to accrue about 20 hours of paid time off per year.
About 10 percent of McDonald's restaurants nationwide are company-owned. The rest, run by more than 3,100 franchisees, "operate their individual businesses and make their own decisions on pay and benefits for their employees," the statement says.
"We know that a motivated workforce leads to better customer service," Easterbrook said. "So we believe this initial step not only benefits our employees, it will improve the McDonald's restaurant experience."
Kwanza Brooks, a McDonald's worker from Charlotte, North Carolina, said in a statement that the company's actions are "too little to make a real difference, and covers only a fraction of workers."
"It's a weak move for a company that made $5.6 billion in profits last year," Brooks says. "We're going to keep fighting until we win $15 [per hour] and union rights for all fast-food workers and our families."
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wednesday was another rough day on Wall Street as stocks finished lower after reports showed lower hiring at private companies in March.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 77.94 to 17,698.18. It had been trading down nearly 200 points earlier in the session.
The Nasdaq dipped to 4,880.23, down 20.66 on the day, while the S&P 500 slipped 8.2 to 2,059.69.
Payroll processor ADP reported that the number of Americans working in the private sector in March increased by 189,000. That figure, however, marks the first time in months that employment increased by fewer than 200,000 jobs.
Also on Wednesday, McDonald's announced that it would increase the minimum wage for more than 90,000 employees around the country. Employees at company-owned restaurants -- about 10 percent of the McDonald's locations in the U.S. -- will make $1 more than the locally-mandated minimum wage beginning in July.
Magnolia Pictures(NEW YORK) -- The whale trainer behind a book critical of SeaWorld says his former employer is conducting a "smear campaign" by releasing a 5-year-old video of him using racist terms.
John Hargrove is on a book tour for Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish. He was featured in the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which describes the life of killer whale Tilikum, which killed a trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.
In the video distributed by SeaWorld to media outlets on Tuesday, Hargrove can be heard saying that he is drunk and he uses the N-word multiple times in the nearly five-minute video.
SeaWorld spokesman Fred Jacobs, who said the video was given to the company by "an internal whistleblower," said the company would have fired Hargrove "immediately had we known he engaged in this kind of behavior."
"As we have said all along, Blackfish star John Hargrove has repeatedly provided statements that are misleading, false or in conflict with statements he has made previously," Jacobs wrote in an email to ABC News.
"As someone who might report on Mr. Hargrove and his book, Beneath the Surface, we believe it is important that you see this video we received just this weekend from an internal whistleblower. We are offended by John's behavior and language. The video is particularly reprehensible since John Hargrove is wearing a SeaWorld shirt," Jacobs added.
Hargrove's publisher, Palgrave Macmillan, declined comment, and Hargrove did not respond to a request for comment by ABC News.
The former senior orca trainer told UTSanDiego.com on Tuesday that he only had vague recollections of the conversation and said the video was taken out of context.
"This was me and another SeaWorld employee who got together after work," Hargrove told UTSanDiego.com. "I remember parts of that night and drinking, and you can clearly tell we definitely had a lot to drink. But that video is taken completely out of context. There's not a proper beginning or end."
"It's not surprising but it's disgusting that SeaWorld would resort to this level of a smear campaign, making personal attacks," Hargrove told UTSanDiego.com.
Jacobs, in his email to ABC News, provided examples of what he called other "lies and fabrications" by Hargrove in his book, including that SeaWorld deprives its killer whales of food.
"This is simply not true and he knows it," Jacobs said. "In fact, twice in February 2014 he tweeted the opposite: 'Any trainer that held back food from a whale was a poor trainer and using techniques not taught to us in the SeaWorld system' and 'food deprivation is not really used.'"
Hargrove worked at SeaWorld San Diego from 1995 until 2001 and SeaWorld Texas from 2008 through August 2012, according to SeaWorld, which also noted that Hargrove never worked at SeaWorld Florida, and never worked with Tilikum.
Hargrove left SeaWorld in 2012 after being disciplined for a severe safety violation involving the park's killer whales, according to the company.
"As a result of that violation, Hargrove was transferred out of Shamu Stadium in May 2012 and no longer worked with killer whales. He resigned shortly after. We do not tolerate any violation of safety rules or other behavior that could put our employees or animals at risk," Jacobs said.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Priceline has decided to give a refund to a Minnesota family for a $516 car rental for an "unusual situation" involving the renter, who was a 9-month-old baby.
Mandy Ellingson of Big Lake Minnesota said her son Daniel was sitting in her lap when she was shopping for car rentals for an upcoming family vacation on her laptop. Also on the phone with her in-laws who had found a better deal, Ellingson said she leaned over to delete her information on the Priceline website, but instead her baby completed the purchase.
Ellingson, a teacher, said she was in "complete shock" at her baby's major purchase on March 9.
"I thought, 'Did he really just do that?' It was that shocked feeling, like, I can't believe it happened. So that's why we got on the phone right away and tried to fix it," said Ellingson, 27.
But Priceline said the purchase was "non-refundable and there's nothing they can do," Ellingson said.
"They kept saying that I booked it -- but I told them, 'I didn't book it. My baby booked it,'" Ellingson recalled.
After a story aired this week on a local TV station, Priceline reached the Ellingsons on Tuesday and offered a "one-time exception" for a full refund.
A spokeswoman for Priceline said the company is able to offer deep discounts due to relationships with suppliers. But in this instance, she acknowledged the "unusual situation."
Ellingson said she is "thankful" to Priceline for the refund.
Ellingson said her baby was never allowed to play with her iPhone or iPad, which is why he may have been intrigued by the device in front of him that day.
"If it's something he doesn't get to play with, it's something shiny and bright," she said.
As for her car rental, she said her family will likely make a reservation Wednesday night for their vacation to Hawaii in June.
iStock/Thinkstock(WALKERTON, Ind.) — The operators of a pizza restaurant in Indiana reportedly say they support the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence and wouldn't be willing to cater a gay wedding.
The owners of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, near the border with Michigan, told ABC News' South Bend, Indiana, television affiliate WBND that they don't support gay marriage because of their religious beliefs, adding that they would be willing to serve gay or lesbian customers who come to their restaurant, just not a wedding.
“If a gay couple was to come in -- like say, they wanted us to provide them pizzas for a wedding, we would have to say 'no,'” Crystal O'Connor of Memories Pizza told WBND, calling the business a "Christian establishment."
“We're not discriminating against anyone,” O'Connor told WBND. "It's just that's our belief, and everybody has the right to believe in anything.
“We definitely agree with the bill,” O'Connor told WBND, referring to a state measure that prohibits state and local government from infringing on someone's religious beliefs without a "compelling" interest.
On Wednesday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he wants his state's legislature to alter a religious-freedom bill in that state that is similar to the one signed into law by Indiana Gov. Pence just last week, saying, "We want to be known as a state that does not discriminate but understands tolerance." Pence has said his state also hopes find a way to clarify that its law does not encourage discrimination.
Of the Indiana law, O'Connor said, "I don't think it is targeting gays. I don't think it's discrimination. ...It's supposed to help people that have a religious belief."
“That's a lifestyle that you choose," Kevin O'Connor, Crystal's father, told WBND. "I choose to be heterosexual. They choose to be homosexual. Why should I be beat over the head because they choose that lifestyle?”
Memories Pizza did not answer the phone when ABC News called Wednesday, and a Yelp page for the restaurant said it would not be open until the late afternoon. Attempts to reach members of the O'Connor family by phone individually were unsuccessful Wednesday morning.
By 11 a.m. ET on Wednesday, the restaurant's Yelp page had 243 reviews with an average one-star rating, including criticism of the owner's statements to WBND and images of gay couples. The page had only two reviews before Wednesday.
"Jesus Christ did not discriminate when he fed the masses with the loaves and fishes," one Yelp reviewer wrote. "And on other numerous occasions...dined with people of questionable moral character. Who are we to judge others?"
Another Yelp reviewer wrote, "No self-respecting Gay couple is going to serve pizza at their wedding, ever."
The O'Connor family has owned Memories Pizza for nine years, WBND reported.
Walmart(BENTONVILLE, Ark.) — Walmart CEO Doug McMillon is asking Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto a bill that "threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion."
On Tuesday, Arkansas' House approved a religious freedom measure that is similar to the one signed into law by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence just last week. On Monday, Gov. Hutchinson said he would sign the measure into law once it gets to his desk.
But Arkansas native and head of Walmart, Doug McMillon, said he hopes Hutchinson vetoes the bill that prohibits state and local government from infringing on someone's religious beliefs without a "compelling" interest.
“Every day, in our stores, we see firsthand the benefits diversity and inclusion have on our associates, customers and communities we serve," McMillon said in a statement on Tuesday night. "It all starts with our core basic belief of respect for the individual."
Originally from Jonesboro, Arkansas, McMillon graduated from the University of Arkansas and received a MBA from the University of Tulsa. He's been CEO and president of Walmart for more than a year.
"[Tuesday's] passage of HB1228 threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold. For these reasons, we are asking Governor Hutchinson to veto this legislation," McMillon wrote.
Amazon got the party started on Tuesday by revealing a new product that actually is not a prank -- but sounded a lot like one at first. The company revealed it is rolling out its Dash delivery service, allowing users to re-order household goods by pressing a physical button.
While an Amazon representative assured ABC News the Dash button is real, here are some actual April Fool's Day pranks from Silicon Valley and beyond that show techies have a real sense of humor:
Google's Smart (Physical) Mailbox
Google wants to free your mail from the confines of the mailbox so you can touch it and smell it and once again revel in the feeling of receiving snail mail.
"Today we’re excited to introduce Smartbox -- a better, smarter mailbox that fuses physical mail with everything you love about the electronic kind," Google wrote in a blog post.
A user gets an alert on their phone that they have X number of standard envelopes waiting for you. They can then go out to their smartbox, wave their hand in front of it and receive their mail.
Microsoft's MS-DOS Mobile
Windows 10 isn't even out yet but we're already over it. Check out Microsoft's back to basics MS-DOS operating system for the Lumia smartphone.
"Turning our back on graphics was hugely liberating. We've dropped the resolution, and in doing so re-discovered our roots," design lead Daniel Glass said. "The inspiration for the graphical design is Courier New meets film noir."
Hinge for Toddlers
In today's world of competitive preschool applications and toddler extracurricular activities, it's never too early to get them started on finding a future spouse, right?
Introducing Hinge for toddlers.
The popular dating app, which works on facilitating matches for users based on their connections, is branching out to provide its services for toddlers.
Ben S., age 4, is 3-foot-8 and calls himself a "foodie, dance machine, secret agent."
Click and Grow's Martian Ambition
Click and Grow, a maker of automated plant growing technology that can turn anyone into a gardener, announced its ambition to grow food on Mars.
"Click and Grow makes it so anyone can grow fresh herbs, fruits and veggies anywhere no matter the time of year," the company said in a statement to ABC News. "And while its products were developed to be used in your earthling home, the tech might just make perfect sense for use in future Martian colonies."
At least Elon Musk, NASA and those volunteers for the Mars 100 mission will now have fresh food to eat when they arrive on the Red Planet, right?
Quiz Up Is Full of Nonsense
QuizUp, the popular mobile gaming app, has added a special category that requires zero brain power.
Take a break from history, science and sports and instead mosey on over to the "nonsense" category where you can answer such gems as "Can Jesus himself microwave a burrito so hot that he himself cannot eat it?" and another asking if you'll lend a seemingly nice couple some money.
Give it a try and feel your brain cells die by the second.
Miz Mooz Selfie Shoes
This gives shoe gaze a whole new meaning. Put away your selfie stick and instead insert your phone into the docking port of your Miz Mooz pumps. Kick like a Rockette while smiling at your selfie shoes to get the perfect snap.
Amazon Parties Like It's 1999
Remember 1999 when the fear of Y2K lingered in the air and shopping online was still somewhat of a novelty?
Amazon wound back the clock 16 years for its April Fool's Day gag to show off what the site looked like in simpler times -- long before Amazon Prime and dreams of drones and instant video came along.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks about the state's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act at a press conference on March 31, 2015. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Corporations continue to speak out against the recently passed Indiana "religious freedom" law and others like it being considered around the country, calling them "bad for business" and discriminatory.
In a statement posted on the website for the Human Rights Campaign on Tuesday, companies including American Airlines, Apple, Levi Strauss, Microsoft, Orbitz, Symantec and Wells Fargo decried the law, and others like it around the country. Also on Tuesday, Arkansas' state legislature passed a similar bill.
"These state laws set a dangerous precedent that stifles investment and economic growth by jeopardizing a state's status as a welcoming place for employees to live and thrive, undermining the success of a business at large," the statement reads.
"While these bills won't alter our commitment to equality in the workplace, this legislation sends the wrong message about the states in which we operate and threatens our core corporate commitment to respect all individuals."
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- IRS-related phone scams are no joke, the agency's Commissioner John Koskinen said Tuesday.
Scammers continue to use tricks to take advantage of American taxpayers, an IRS release says, including the use of fake names, bogus IRS badge numbers and altered caller ID numbers. "This is no April Fool's joke," Koskinen said. "Everyone should be on the lookout for threatening calls from people faking IRS phone numbers and demands for immediate payment."
Any such call, he noted, is a scam. The IRS reiterates its warning to taxpayers that it will never call to demand immediate payment, will not call without having first mailed a bill, will always offer the opportunity to question or appeal taxes they say you owe, and will never require use of specific payment for taxes.
Anyone who believes they have been targeted by such a phone scam is advised to call the Federal Trade Commission and/or the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After Wall Street posted sizable gains on Monday, the markets came back to earth on Tuesday despite some positive news on housing and consumer outlook.
The Dow Jones Industrial dropped 200.19 to end the session at 17,776.12.
The Nasdaq dipped to 4,900.89, down 46.55 on the day, while the S&P 500 posted 18.35 in losses to a close of 2,067.89.
The newest data from the Standard and Poor's/Case Shiller Index showed home prices rose 4.6 percent in January as compared to the year before. Also on Tuesday, the Conference Board's consumer confidence survey showed increased confidence from January to February.
Twitter, Inc.(NEW YORK) -- With the advent of live video streaming apps, it's now easier than ever to life-cast to your social media followers or even build a legion of fans online.
While having the technology at your fingertips is enticing, not everyone wants to be a reality star.
Here's a look at three of the biggest live video apps and what they have to offer -- including which one will pay you for just being yourself:
It's easy to gain a global audience on Periscope, the app that Twitter released last week.
Broadcasts from around the world are featured on the home screen of the app showing off everything from a Friday night party to a dog doing tricks to a walk down the street in Vienna.
Users have the option of choosing to push a link to their Twitter followers, allowing them to tune into the live stream.
Periscope differentiates itself by offering broadcasters the chance to let viewers replay their stream when it is complete.
Audience love is also a huge aspect of the Periscope app, which allows viewers to tap the screen and send hearts to the broadcaster, letting them know they appreciate what they're doing.
It's already gained a large celebrity following, including actor Aaron Paul, astronaut Chris Hadfield and magician David Blaine, who are now able to go live to their fans whenever they want.
The darling of South by Southwest 2015 is only around a month old but has been overshadowed in the past week with the launch of Twitter's Periscope.
What differentiates Meerkat from the other services is its ephemeral nature -- think of it as Snapchat but for live video.
When you're done broadcasting, no one can ever watch your video again, making it ideal for people who don't want a large video footprint to live on online.
(The broadcaster does get the option to save the video to their private camera roll.)
The lively community includes broadcasters who do everything from sleeping on camera to singing, to hosting their own show while they're at their day job.
Tayser Abuhamdeh, from Brooklyn, New York, who goes by the name Mr. Cashier, has gained a loyal following and a paycheck from his show on YouNow. He chats with his fans on the live broadcast in between serving customers.
YouNow CEO Adi Sideman told ABC News that top broadcasters can earn $500 and $15,000 per month, allowing some of them to even make it their full-time job.
The pay is determined by viewers, the level of audience interaction and digital "gifts" that are sent from fans to performers.
Aside from the partner program that allows designated broadcasters to earn money from their shows, YouNow also offers user engagement tools that let broadcasters poll their audience about what they want to see next.
Amazon(NEW YORK) -- Amazon is bringing its one-click ordering system to everyday life with the introduction of the Amazon Dash button.
While the thought of pressing a "Tide" button on your washer to re-order more detergent may seem like an early April Fool's Day joke, Amazon said the service is real and will be rolled out to Prime members on an invitation-only basis.
The buttons will be branded with some of the most common household products made by participating brands, letting users easily re-order Huggies diapers to Gillette Fusion razor blades.
Each Dash button comes with adhesive so it can be stuck in a convenient place for when it's time to reorder. The buttons only respond to a single press, meaning that you won't have to worry about any trigger-happy kids accidentally ordering 50 rolls of paper towels.
The battery-powered buttons work by connecting to a home Wi-Fi network. Users then use their Amazon app to set up their buttons and what they want to order (for instance, what size of diapers). From there, all they have to do is press the branded button for the product they want to re-order.
After a Dash alert has been sent, Amazon will send a notice to the buyer's phone making it easy to cancel if they want to change their order.
If the customer presses the button when they are running low, the goods will then be delivered to them just in time so they never run out of a particular household product.
Amazon Dash buttons will be free for Prime members but will be rolled out on an invitation-only basis.
Bryan Mitchell/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The announcement that Tesla Motors will unveil a new game-changing product category next month that isn't a car has sent imaginations running wild.
CEO Elon Musk teased the April 30 announcement in a tweet on Monday, only offering the clue that he would not be showing off a new car.
He added that both the press and Tesla owners would be invited to the unveiling -- sparking the possibility that the new product could perhaps work with existing Tesla vehicles.
Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, told ABC News that Tesla's multi-billion dollar Gigafactory in Nevada to build lithium ion batteries could be a key clue to the company's plans.
"We need the ability to store energy when it’s bountiful and use it when it isn't bountiful," Brauer said. "If somebody can come up with a system to time shift energy storage, that would have a lot of potential and go far beyond the automotive industry."
He said he believes Tesla's new product will likely be a battery for the home or something that could be retrofitted to existing Tesla vehicles, allowing them to get an even greater range.
Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, told ABC News that a battery to power the home is a possibility -- especially since Tesla has previously said it has been working on a stationary battery.
Like Tesla's premium cars, Moorhead said he believes the hypothetical home charging system wouldn't be affordable to the masses, at least until 2020 when the company revs up production at its gigafactory.
"I think with the scarcity of battery technology, I don’t think it will be very affordable," he said. "Once they get their factory up and running I am expecting to see more mainstream pricing on anything they produce."
It's also worth noting Musk is chairman of SolarCity, a company that provides solar power to homes, schools and businesses.
A Tesla motorcycle is another idea that has been discussed.
Brauer said "anything is possible" but he thinks Musk "would probably not want to spend a lot of time and resources on a niche product."
"He’s going to start chasing more higher volume solutions," Brauer said.
After Musk's tweet on Monday, the news subsequently caused Tesla's stock to jump 3 percent in the afternoon. The CEO fired back at critics earlier this month who said he used Twitter to move Tesla's stock price, writing that the short term spike "obviously does no good for Tesla or me."
He added: "Neither I nor the company are selling shares. Even if we were, I wouldn't do this. It would be wrong. Our long term results are what matter."
Google Maps(NEW YORK) -- Pac-Man has invaded Google Maps just in time for April Fool's Day.
The classic arcade character will traverse the streets in some of the world's most iconic places, moving away from the dastardly ghosts with every key stroke.
Players can access the game on desktop and mobile devices by pulling up an area of Google Maps with a lot of roads. From there, they can click the Pac-Man icon and start playing.
After five lives have been used, it's game over and players can choose to share their score and play again.
It's not the first time Google has built an "Easter egg" into Google Maps. Last year, the search engine giant gave everyone the chance to catch 151 hidden Pokemon for the chance to become Google's "Pokemon Master."