Two McDonald’s employees in Florida have filed a $500m (£400m) class action lawsuit, accusing the fast food giant of fostering “systemic sexual harassment”.
Jamelia Fairley and Ashley Reddick are named on behalf of some 5,000 women from over 100 US McDonald’s outlets. It is backed by Time’s Up, a high-profile legal charity set up as part of the #MeToo movement.
Ms Fairley and Ms Reddick join 5,000 other women who have worked at corporate-run McDonald’s restaurants across Florida since April 2016 and experienced sexual harassment on the job.
The suit, filed in the company’s home state of Illinois, centres on a particular McDonald’s restaurant near Orlando, Florida, and alleges “extensive illegal harassment that went ignored by management”.
The plaintiffs say that numerous women were subject to “pervasive sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, including groping, sexual assault and sexually-charged comments” at the Orlando restaurant.
McDonald’s said it 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,” the company said in a statement.
Ms Fairley, 24, claims she was harassed by two colleagues. One made sexually-explicit comments towards her, she alleges, saying she had a “fat ass” and that he would “take [her] on a ride”.
Ms Fairley says the comments escalated to unwanted touching. The colleague would pull her into his groin area and “[rub] his genitals on her”, the suit claims.
Ms Reddick, 28, a former McDonald’s worker, also allegedly faced verbal and physical harassment from a male co-worker.
The colleague would rub his groin area against her, she says, and touch her thighs. On one occasion she alleges he put his phone in front of her face and showed her a picture of his genitals.
Jamelia and I are filing this lawsuit on behalf of McDonald’s workers across Florida because the company needs to step up and protect us.”
We’re not the only ones who have been sexually harassed while on the job at McDonald’s… This is a nation-wide problem, the company has known about it for years and we won’t stop speaking out until McDonald’s listens to us.
McDonald’s has said that it updated its discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation policy and training in January 2019 and says it offers a free hotline to call with any “employment concerns”.
The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund was founded in 2018 and is backed by some of Hollywood’s most powerful women, including Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon and Natalie Portman.
BBC / ABC Flash Point News 2020.