Several Mcdonald’s workers and labor groups have filed a class-action lawsuit against the fast-food chain over claims of widespread sexual harassment in its restaurants.
The lawsuit argues that Mcdonald’s has failed to address a systematic problem of harassment.
“McDonald’s, one of the largest employers in the country, creates and permits a toxic work culture from the very top — as reflected by former CEO Steve Easterbrook’s recent firing for an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate in violation of company policy — and throughout its thousands of restaurants within the United States that employ over one million workers,” the suit says.
Jenna Ries, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, alleges that a manager harassed her by taunting her, pulling her hair and grabbing her chest, buttocks and crotch multiple times.
“Once, when he was working next to Ries in the kitchen, the swing manager placed his penis in Ries’ hand,” the lawsuit explains. The suit also says the manager once pinned Ries against a wall in the restaurant freezer.
Ries said that she always lived in fear of losing her job for rejecting the manager’s advances. When she reported the harassment, she was transferred to another store where her hours were cut and she was forced to quit.
“It’s definitely difficult for me to come forward, but I want to encourage other people,” Ries said. “I want McDonald’s to recognize that they have a problem and make sure this doesn’t happen to others.”
Eve Cervantez, one of Ries’ lawyers, said that she will argue that McDonald’s is responsible for employees at franchised restaurants because the company exerts so much control over franchise operations, employees think of themselves as McDonald’s workers.
The lawsuit seeks $5 million in damages for Ries and a group of employees who worked at the Michigan McDonald’s where she was employed. It also demands for the company to implement effective anti-harassment policies, including work-led mandatory training, a safe system for reporting, adequate investigation and discipline and protection against retaliation.
“There is a deeply important conversation around safe and respectful workplaces in communities throughout the US and around the world, and McDonald’s is demonstrating its continued commitment to this issue through the implementation of Safe and Respectful Workplace Training in 100% of our corporate-owned restaurants,” a McDonald’s representative said in a statement.