A Vermont-based company that owns and operates ten McDonald’s franchise restaurants in Vermont and New Hampshire, will pay $1,600,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
According to the lawsuit, employees at the McDonald’s restaurant operated by Coughlin, Inc. were subjected to a hostile working environment by a male night shift manager, who touched them inappropriately, hit and groped their genitals, breasts and buttocks, and subjected them to sexually explicit derogatory comments and threats of physical harm. The employer also retaliated against at least one employee by revoking her disability-related reasonable accommodation and forcing her to quit after she complained.
All this alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees because of their sex or to retaliate against employees for engaging in protected activity, including complaining about workplace sexual harassment.
An EEOC’s spokesman, said, “Protecting vulnerable workers in the fast food industry is a strategic enforcement priority for our district. The mostly teenage employees working at this McDonald’s location were particularly vulnerable to sex harassment and retaliation. The EEOC is committed to vigorously enforcing anti-discrimination laws on behalf of all restaurant industry workers.”
The settlement provides a total of $1,475,000 in lost wages and compensatory damages to be distributed to employees of the restaurant who were subject to sex harassment and retaliation.
The settlement also provides for significant non-monetary relief designed to prevent further discrimination. These provisions include an injunction prohibiting future discrimination; extensive anti-discrimination and harassment training, including interactive training for the company’s managers and human resources personnel; revisions to company equal employment opportunity policies and procedures for investigating sex harassment complaints; hiring of an independent monitor to oversee Coughlin’s compliance with the decree; and a requirement to report all complaints of sex discrimination and/or retaliation to the EEOC. Coughlin also agreed to prohibit the manager who participated in the harassment from entering its premises.
An EEOC spokesman said, “Unfortunately, sexual harassment remains prevalent in the fast food industry. We applaud Coughlin’s willingness to begin making changes necessary to combat discrimination in its workplace and provide a safer and better working environment for its employees, many of whom are working their first job.”
If you or someone you know is being subject to discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation at work, please contact the attorneys at Pechman Law Group for a consultation.