An Arizona headquartered franchise owner operating approximately 18 McDonalds restaurants in Nevada, Arizona and California, will pay $1,997,500 to resolve a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
According to the lawsuit, since at least 2017, McDonalds knew about sexual harassment and allowed it to continue, unabated, by supervisors, managers, and coworkers at various of its McDonalds restaurants. The harassing conduct, which was mainly directed at young, teenage employees, included frequent unwanted touching, offensive comments, unwelcome sexual advances, and intimidation. McDonalds failed to adequately address the complaints of sexual harassment, and many workers found the working conditions so intolerable that they had no choice but to quit.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. The EEOC filed a suit in federal court in Nevada, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
“Preventing and remedying systemic harassment and protecting vulnerable workers from discrimination are key priorities for the Commission,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows. “Teenage workers are especially vulnerable to harassment. The EEOC will continue to use all its tools–including outreach and education, technical assistance and, where necessary, litigation –to tackle workplace harassment.”
In addition to the monetary relief, McDonalds has agreed to provide significant, franchise-wide injunctive relief aimed at preventing discrimination and harassment in the workplace. McDonalds has agreed to retain an outside third-party EEO monitor who will conduct internal audits of McDonalds’s practices in handling harassment and retaliation complaints; establish a centralized tracking system for discrimination, harassment, and retaliation complaints; and ensure accountability and appropriate disciplinary action occur. McDonalds has also agreed to conduct climate surveys within the workplace, update policies and procedures regarding discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, and conduct training.
“We continue to see young workers entering the workforce being subjected to harassment in the workplace. Employers should take extra care that supervisors are trained to understand their obligations and that employees are encouraged to report discrimination,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, whose jurisdiction includes Nevada and California. “We are encouraged by the robust measures [McDonalds] is agreeing to implement companywide to encourage workers to raise complaints; to swiftly and effectively address complaints; and to include bystander training for all employees to ensure a discrimination-free work environment.”
“Employers should be mindful of the demographics of their workforce, including whether employees may be more vulnerable to being targeted because of their age,” said Michael Mendoza, director of the EEOC’s Las Vegas Local Office. “It is the responsibility of the employer to create a safe workplace, free from discrimination and harassment.”
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment or have questions about your rights as a worker, contact the attorneys of Pechman Law Group at 212-583-9500.