Workers at McDonald’s Corp’s Michigan unit sued the company on Tuesday for allowing sexual harassment at its restaurants nationwide, India Today reported. The lawsuit filed in a Michigan state court accuses McDonald’s of lacking policies to address sexual harassment, failing to train managers to prevent and refrain it from happening, and retaliating against workers who complain.
The plea said McDonald’s allows a toxic work culture, citing last week’s firing of Chief Executive Steve Easterbrook for having an improper consensual relationship with an employee. Easterbrook had described his relationship with a colleague as “a mistake”.
The fast-food giant in a statement said that it is implementing safe-workplace training at its corporate-owned restaurants and encouraging franchisees to follow the same. “There is a deeply important conversation around safe and respectful workplaces in communities throughout the U.S. and around the world,” McDonald’s said.
Workers have filed more than 50 complaints on similar lines against McDonald’s and its franchisees in the United States over the last three years. Tuesday’s lawsuit was among the first brought as a class action.
Ries, 32, worked for over 18 months at a franchised McDonald’s in Michigan. He that a restaurant manager there subjected her to repeated sexual assaults including by pinning her against a wall. “I constantly lived in fear of losing my job,” Ries told reporters on a conference call.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ries who worked at the Mason restaurant in Michigan over the last three years. It seeks improved training, added protections for employees, and more than $5 million of damages.
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.
McDonald’s policy states that the company does not tolerate sexual harassment and disallows any retaliation against those who make complaints. “All employees must treat each other with respect and take steps to ensure the work environment is free from harassment,” the policy says.
However, a court in San Francisco last month said McDonald’s does not exercise enough control over franchise workers to be considered a joint employer.