This morning 10 former McDonald’s employees filed a federal civil lawsuit alleging that they were fired from their jobs this past May because there were “too many black people” in the Virginia McDonald’s stores where they worked.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, alleges that 15 black employees were fired in McDonald’s locations in South Boston and Clarksville, Va., after the franchise operator Soweva took over the stores in 2013. Soon after assuming management, the lawsuit alleges, Soweva owner Michael Simon complained that “the ratio was off in each of the stories,” and that restaurants were “too dark.” Black workers were called “bitch,” “ghetto,” and “ratchet,” and Latino workers were called “dirty Mexicans,” the lawsuit alleges.
Nine of the plaintiffs are black, one is Latino, and they’ve worked a combined half century at McDonald’s restaurants. They also allege that in addition to racial harassment, management made anti-gay comments and sexually harassed workers.
“All of a sudden, they let me go, for no other reason than I ‘didn’t fit the profile’ they wanted at the store,” plaintiff Willie Betts, a cook at the South Boston McDonald’s, said in a statement. “I had no idea what they meant by the right profile until I saw everyone else that they fired as well. I worked at McDonald’s for almost five years, I was on time every day at four o’clock in the morning to open the store, and I never had a disciplinary write-up. They took away the only source of income I have to support my family.”
If workers prevail, the lawsuit could have lasting impacts on the effort to hold major corporations responsible for what they’ve long contended are the labor practices of their franchise owners, Al Jazeera America reports. This past July, a landmark National Labor Relations Board ruling determined that McDonald’s should be considered a “joint employer” alongside franchise operators which run its stores. McDonald’s Corporate has claimed that they are not liable for their franchise operators’ labor practices.
The workers are supported by the NAACP and Fight for 15, a union-backed worker organizing group fighting for higher wages in fast food restaurants.