We have written many times about sexual harassment under the golden arches. Tens of thousands of Americans had their first job at McDonalds. Flipping burgers for low pay and working weekends and after school. Some workers make it their career while seniors often turn to McDonalds for a part time job to supplement their retirement. Whatever their motivation, everyone is entitled to workplace free of harassment. Unfortunately, America’s largest fast food chain often fails that task miserably.
The company was just hit with another harassment lawsuit, this one seeking $500 million. It was filed by two women in Florida. They say they were subjected to “constant and open” harassment.
Jamelia Fairley and former employee Ashley Reddick say they were subjected to constant harassment. According to their complaint,
“McDonald’s workers nationwide – and women in particular-- have for years been telling their stories of routine, severe sexual harassment and abuse. Among them are teenagers, to whom the company promises “America’s best first job” and instead delivers predation. McDonald’s employees are literally taking to the streets to protest the mistreatment that is endemic to their daily lives at the company. McDonald’s employees -- women in particular -- report routine harassment at the hands of supervisors, co-workers, and customers. They also describe swift and severe retaliation for objecting to such mistreatment, and an utter failure to discipline harassers or remedy hostile work environments.”
Jamelia and Ashley say the entire corporate culture at McDonalds is diseased as evidenced by the recent firing of CEO Stephen Easterbrook for having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. The new CEO installed in January is trying to change the culture of the company which some perceive as a “macho guys club.”
The women say that female employees are subjected to “severe or pervasive sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, including groping, physical assaults, and sexually-charged verbal comments.”
Jamelia Fairley, 24, works at a Sanford, Florida McDonalds. She says has been working for the company since she was 20 years old. Beginning in 2018, she says a male co-worker began making unwelcome and sexual comments to her, including telling her that she had a “fat ass” and “I’ll take you for a ride.”
Despite telling him that she was not interested, the male co-worker’s behavior got worse. He began pinching her buttocks on numerous occasions, rubbing his hand in her groin area, and touching her hair. He also grabbed her by the waist and pulled her back into his groin area, “dry-humping” her from behind.
She complained to her shift managers and the general manager but nothing was done and the behavior continued.
A male maintenance worker made offensive comments to her and other female employees such as, “What kind of underwear to you wear” and “Do you suck dick?”
Finally after repeated harassment, the maintenance worker was fired. However then her shift manager was upset at her for getting her friend fired.
At one point, Jamelia tried calling the phone number on a company poster about harassment in the employee break room. Her call was directed to the voicemail of an HR specialist who never called back.
Ashley Reddick, 28, also worked at the Sanford, Florida McDonalds. She too was the recipient of unwelcome sexual comments and physical assaults.
She says her ordeal began in April 2018. A male coworker began making unwelcome sexual comments on a daily basis. He said such things as, “Damn, I wonder what you taste like,” “I got to have you,” and, “I didn’t know you had boobs like that.”
Soon thereafter the physical assaults started. The male coworker rubbed his groin area against her when she was at the fry station, touched her thighs, and rubbed against her shoulders, even though she repeatedly made clear that such behavior was unwelcome.
In May 2018, he held his phone in front of her face displaying a picture of his erect penis, and said, “Do you think you can handle this,” or words to that effect. That incident caused Ashley to report the man to management. Nothing happened.
A week later the man followed her into the bathroom and cornered her saying, “I’ll show you what a big boy can do.”
She was terminated a short time later. Ashley believes it was were for making waves by reporting her co-workers assaults and sexual comments.
The two women believe that rather than protect workers, McDonald’s restaurant-level managers, as well as regional supervisors and human resources professionals knowingly allowed the harassment to continue. When female employees complain, they suffer retaliation. Sometimes the company moves the harassers from one restaurant to another thus allowing them to continue to harass others.
The women claim that the corporate McDonald restaurants in Florida broke the law in several ways:
- McDonald’s does nothing to assure sexual harassment training actually takes place or actually succeeds in preventing harassment, despite paying lip service to training crew members;
- On information and belief, McDonald’s also does nothing to train in-restaurant managers about how to respond to harassment complaints and prevent harassment, and fails to hold accountable those managers who allow harassment to flourish, or who retaliate against those who report harassment;
- On information and belief, McDonald’s also fails to train its regional managers who supervise numerous restaurants, and/or provide human resources consulting services for numerous restaurants, in how to respond to harassment complaints and prevent harassment, and also fails to hold accountable those upper level managers who allow harassment to flourish and/or retaliate against those who dare to complain; and
- McDonald’s does nothing to monitor serial harassers or problem restaurants or areas or regions, permitting management to simply shuffle harassers around to different restaurants, where they harass anew.
They hope to get $100,000 per female employee in Florida. Their class action only applies to women working in corporate restaurants. Most restaurants are franchise locations.
McDonalds denies the allegations and told Law360, "McDonald's has always been committed to ensuring that our employees are able to work in an environment that is free from all forms of discrimination and harassment. 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 and encourages our franchisees to do the same. The plaintiffs' allegations of harassment and retaliation were investigated as soon as they were brought to our attention, and we will likewise investigate the new allegations that they have raised in their complaint."
Since 2016, McDonalds has been sued for sexual harassment dozens of times.
For more information, please visit our cornerstone post, How Do I Sue McDonalds for Sexual Harassment. With a good lawyer, the process isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think. Both sexual harassment and retaliation for reporting harassment are against the law. Even if McDonalds doesn’t take your claims seriously, we do. So do courts.
Ready to see if you have a case? Contact us online, by email [hidden email] or by phone at 877.858.8018. All inquiries are kept confidential and protected by the attorney – client privilege.