On Tuesday (November 12), a former McDonald’s employee filed a lawsuit against the fast food chain, claiming it has a systemic sexual harassment problem. It is just one of more than a dozen complaints that have been brought against the company for gender-based discrimination.
The suit was filed in the 30th Judicial Circuit Court in Michigan’s Ingham County. Jenna Ries is suing the chain for mistreatment and a culture of sexual harassment.
Per The New York Times:
In the complaint, the employee, Jenna Ries, said a manager at a McDonald’s in Mason, Michigan, repeatedly harassed her between 2017 and 2019. She said the manager had groped her, called her offensive names and put his penis in her hand while he was working next to her in the kitchen. The manager threatened to fire Ms. Ries for rejecting his sexual advances, the complaint said, and harassed “many other women and girls.”
The suit is seeking class-action status, as well as $5 million in compensation for employees at the McDonald’s in Mason. It faults not just that location, but the McDonald’s organization at large. The suit reads in part: “Despite being on notice of pervasive problems of sexual harassment nationwide, McDonald’s fails to address such unlawful sexual harassment and the company culture that enables it.”
Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union and labor group Fight for $15 backed the suit. All three organizations have supported recent lawsuits brought by employees against the chain.
“At least 50 workers have filed sexual harassment charges against McDonald’s in state courts or with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the past three years,” reports Forbes. On a single day in May 2018, cashiers and cooks employed by McDonald’s in nine cities filed 10 sexual harassment charges against the fast food chain with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Per Forbes:
The restaurant industry has historically been a hotbed of harassment. A 2016 survey of female fast-food workers in nonmanagerial positions found that 40 percent of them had experienced unwanted sexual behaviors on the job, and women of color were especially likely to be subjected to retribution for speaking up about unwanted sexual attention. Thirty-four percent of African-American women and 26 percent of Latinas reported at least one negative action, compared with 17 percent of White women, according to the survey.
As Colorlines previously reported, the NAACP passed a 2014 resolution that stated that of the four million fast food workers in America, people of color were “disproportionately represented and especially concentrated in the lowest paying jobs.”
One week ago, McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook was fired after he admitted to being in a consensual relationship with a subordinate, which is against company rules. Ries’ lawsuit referenced this, saying: “McDonald’s creates and permits a toxic work culture from the very top, as reflected by former CEO Steve Easterbrook’s recent firing.”
In addition to the lawsuit, The Times reports that hundreds of Michigan employees are preparing to strike in support of Ries, to demand a union and to show their dissatisfaction with the company’s handling of sexual harassment allegations.