Two workers — one current and one former — at a corporate McDonald’s location in Florida on Friday filed a lawsuit seeking class-action status in federal district court against the Chicago-based franchisor, alleging sexual harassment by co-workers.
Jamelia Fairley and Ashley Reddick sued on behalf of other workers that have experienced harassment and retaliation at company-owned locations in Florida, where McDonald’s operates around 100 units, according to their attorney. The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, names McDonald’s Corp., McDonald’s USA LLC and the operating subsidiary McDonald’s Restaurants of Florida Inc.
The lawsuit is the latest chapter in what has been years of ongoing pressure from labor advocacy group Fight for $15, which has long accused McDonald’s of creating a toxic work culture. The lawsuit contends the company has been aware of an endemic problem of sexual harassment and has not adequately trained workers and managers to stop it.
The lawsuit filed Friday makes reference to more than 80 federal lawsuits and “countless” state lawsuits detailing harassment at McDonald’s restaurants across the country, filed with support from the ACLU and the Times Up Legal Defense Fund. In addition, hundreds of charges have also been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC. The EEOC indicates some of those lawsuits have been settled.
In a statement on Monday, McDonald’s USA said the plaintiffs’ complaints were investigated as soon as they were brought to the company’s attention, and any new allegations will also be investigated.
The company also noted it has strengthened its policies to prohibit discrimination and harassment in recent years, including improved training and resources like a free hotline for workers at franchise locations to supplement what franchisees might offer.
“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 USA said in the statement. “McDonald’s is demonstrating its continued commitment to this issue through the implementation of Safe and Respectful Workplace Training in 100% of corporate-owned restaurants and encourages our franchisees to do the same.”
Attorney Eve Cervantez of Altshuler Berzon LLP, said in a Zoom press conference on Monday that Fairley and Reddick’s complaints were investigated by the EEOC and the agency granted a “right to sue” in January.
Fairley has worked at a McDonald’s unit in Sanford, Fla., since 2016, and Reddick is a former crew member and trainer at the restaurant, who worked there between 2015 and 2018 and said she was fired after reporting harassment.
Both women reported inappropriate sexual comments, unwanted touching and groping, including situations where they did not feel safe on the job. Both also said they reported the behavior to managers who did nothing to protect them.
The lawsuit seeks $100,000 in compensatory damages for each woman who has been harassed in company locations in Florida, which attorneys estimate would add up to more than $500 million if class-action status is granted by the court.
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