The golden arches are getting more and more tainted these days.
A former McDonald’s employee, – who says a male co-worker at a Michigan restaurant routinely grabbed her breasts, buttocks and propositioned her for sex — is included in a class action lawsuit that accuses McDonald’s of fostering a “culture of sexual harassment.”
According to NPR, more than 50 claims and charges of harassment of female employees are pending against McDonald’s in courts and at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They are said to be seeking $5 million in damages.
The lawsuit against McDonald’s and its Michigan franchise is the latest allegation of rampant abuse and harassment of female employees at the fast-food chain.
According to multiple sources, the named plaintiff in the suit, Jenna Ries describes McDonald’s as a corporation “creates and permits a toxic work culture from the very top.”
Ries, 32, worked for 1-1/2 years at a franchised McDonald’s in Mason, Michigan, near the state capital of Lansing according to Reuters.
In the lawsuit, Ries accuses a store manager of repeatedly harassing her, calling her “bitch, “slut” and “whore”, pulling her hair, and at one point, when they were working next to each other in the kitchen, forcibly put his genitals in her hand. She said this on a call with the press on Tuesday.
“I was so scared,” she recalled. even “placed his penis” in her hand. According to the filing, Ries witnessed similar harassment of other women and girls, and reported the co-worker to the general manager — but the behavior continued.
“This is not just about me,” Ries added. “This is about countless McDonald’s workers around the country who have survived sexual harassment on the job. We deserve to feel safe at work.”
McDonald’s, in a statement, said it was “demonstrating its continued commitment” to the issue by adding a new anti-harassment training program to all corporate-owned restaurants. It also said it was “encouraged” by the progress getting franchisees to implement the training.
“There is a deeply important conversation around safe and respectful workplaces in communities throughout the U.S. and around the world, and McDonald’s is demonstrating its continued commitment to this issue,” McDonald’s said in the statement.
Roughly 95% of McDonald’s U.S. restaurants are franchised, and the plaintiffs’ lawyers said the Chicago-based company does not push hard enough to improve training at the franchised restaurants.
Their accusations drew new focus last week when McDonald’s fired its CEO, Steve Easterbrook, over a consensual relationship with an employee.
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He is not accused of sexual harassment, but the relationship violated company policy. Still, Easterbrook is receiving a multi-million-dollar exit package.
One of Ries’ attorneys, Eve Cervantez, said she will argue that McDonald’s is responsible for employees at franchised restaurants because the company exerts so much control over franchise operations and employees consider themselves McDonald’s workers. This according to Fox News.
Time Magazine reports a former employee at a McDonald’s in Detroit filed a separate charge with the EEOC on Tuesday, alleging that she was transferred to another location and had her hours cut to the point that she had to quit her job after she reported that a manager had sexually propositioned her.
Ries is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, and supported by Fight for $15, which seeks higher wages and better treatment for workers in fast food and other industries.
In May, McDonald’s workers across the U.S. staged protests against low pay and the company’s handling of alleged sexual harassment. Employees in Michigan who are part of the Fight for $15 movement are going on strike in response to the lawsuit and dozens of complaints filed with the EEOC, representatives for Ries added.