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McDonald’s franchisee pays $1.5 million for sexual harassment

Former McDonald’s employees have agreed a $1.5 million settlement with the former owner of a Michigan restaurant in which the group of women and girls allege the general manager ignored rampant sexual harassment by the same male colleague, including Groping, physical assaults and verbal epithets.

The American Civil Liberties Union women’s rights project, which helped represent employees, announced the settlement Monday. It has yet to be approved by a federal judge.

Former McDonald’s employee Jenna Ries first sued the Michigan-based franchisee, which operates under the names MLMLM Corp. and Maaks Inc., and Chicago-based McDonald’s Corp. in 2019.

Ries claimed that her male colleague, who was in a middle management position, frequently offered her sex in the workplace, mentioned her vulgar epithets in front of the store manager and frequently grabbed her breasts, buttocks and crotch. According to the lawsuit, she often cried on her way to work and felt physically ill. Eventually, she moved to another location, but the colleague who allegedly harassed her stayed at the original location.

In December 2021, a federal judge granted the lawsuit class-action status based on evidence showing that the same male worker consistently and severely molested about 100 teenage women and girls who worked at the Mason, Michigan store. If the settlement is approved, the workers will be entitled to average compensation of $10,000, depending on the level of harassment they suffered.

A McDonald's employee holds up a sign during a protest.
If the settlement is approved, the workers will be entitled to average compensation of $10,000, depending on the level of harassment they suffered.
AFP via Getty Images

“Nobody should have to endure sexual harassment to get a paycheck,” Ries, who worked at the Mason store for three years, said in a statement Monday. “I filed this lawsuit because I didn’t want other women to go through what I did when I worked at McDonald’s. I hope those who were abused get the compensation they deserve, but I also hope McDonald’s will listen to the survivors and do whatever it takes to prevent sexual harassment in its restaurants.”

Ries initially sought at least $5 million in damages for herself and other female employees. But McDonald’s Corp. successfully argued that it did not hire the women directly. About 95% of the 14,000 McDonald’s locations in the US are owned and operated by franchisees.

Ries’ attorneys said they hoped McDonald’s would take more responsibility.

McDonald's restaurant.
At least 100 formal complaints and lawsuits alleging workplace harassment have been filed at McDonald’s restaurants since 2016, the ACLU said.
LightRocket via Getty Images

“Unfortunately, while this settlement is a win for dozens of Mason McDonald’s workers who have alleged egregious harassment, it doesn’t go as far as we would have hoped because McDonald’s Corporate was not at the negotiating table,” added Gillian Thomas, lead counsel the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, said.

“If McDonald’s took responsibility for the welfare of nearly a million people who work under the Golden Arches, it would protect countless workers from harassment and violence,” said Darcie Brault, attorney for the Mason plaintiffs in Michigan. “It is unconscionable that McDonald’s continues to say ‘no’ when it comes to sexual harassment of workers at its franchised locations.”

The lawsuit came amid a major sexual harassment settlement for McDonald’s. At least 100 formal complaints and lawsuits alleging workplace harassment have been filed at McDonald’s restaurants since 2016, the ACLU said. In 2019, the company also fired its former CEO, Steve Easterbrook, for violating a policy that prohibits relationships between superiors and their subordinates.

Last April, the company announced that starting this year, it would require employee training and reporting procedures in its restaurants worldwide to combat harassment, discrimination and violence.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

https://nypost.com/2022/04/05/mcdonalds-franchisee-paying-1-5m-in-sex-harassment-suit/ McDonald’s franchisee pays $1.5 million for sexual harassment

DUSTIN JONES

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