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Workers File Sexual Harassment Class-Action Lawsuit Against McDonald’s

Above photo: McDonald’s is facing a $500 million harassment lawsuit. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

On Monday, Florida McDonald’s workers announced they had filed a $500 million class-action lawsuit against McDonald’s, alleging the fast-food giant has a “systemic sexual harassment problem.”

Jamelia Fairley and Ashley Reddick are the named plaintiffs in the suit, which was filed on behalf of the 5,000 women who worked at the 100 corporate-run McDonald’s locations in Florida since 2016.

Fairley and Reddick were coworkers at a McDonald’s location in Florida, where they say that women faced physical assaults, groping, and sexually-charged comments on the job.

Reddick said she dealt with sexual comments from a male coworker, who said things such as “I didn’t know you had boobs like that.” The coworker allegedly would rub his groin against Reddick and showed her a picture of his private parts on his phone without her consent. Reddick also said she faced harassment from customers.

According to Reddick, a manager failed to take action when she reported her coworker’s behavior. Reddick’s shifts were cut, and she was eventually fired after reporting the behavior, according to the complaint.

Fairley said that she faced physical and verbal harassment from coworkers, including one McDonald’s employee asking how much it would cost to have sex with her one-year-old daughter. According to the complaint, Fairley’s hours were cut after she reported her coworkers’ behavior multiple times.

In a 2016 study, 40% of women working at fast-food chains said they had been sexually harassed at work. A 2015 survey of almost 1,500 fast-food workers found that 12% reported being assaulted on the job in the previous year.

Monday’s class-action suit is filed with support from the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund. It is the latest in more than 50 complaints filed by McDonald’s workers in the past three years, as sexual harassment and abuse on the job has become a major emphasis of the Fight for 15 movement, which organizes fast-food protests over issues related to workers’ rights and pay.

In addition to $500 million in damages, the lawsuit is demanding McDonald’s implement worker-centered anti-harassment policies and training, including teaching in-store and upper-level managers how to investigate complaints and discipline harassers.

McDonald’s said in a statement that 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.”

“McDonald’s is demonstrating its continued commitment to this issue through the implementation of Safe and Respectful Workplace Training in 100% of our corporate-owned restaurants and encourages our franchisees to do the same,” the statement continued. “The plaintiffs’ allegations of harassment and retaliation were investigated as soon as they were brought to our attention, and we will likewise investigate the new allegations that they have raised in their complaint.”

McDonald’s has rolled out internal efforts to combat harassment over the last few years.

Last year, corporate-owned locations debuted a new policy on discrimination, harassment, and retaliation and McDonald’s launched a hotline that all employees can call to express concerns and report harassment. Only about 5% of McDonald’s locations are corporate-owned. In October, McDonald’s partnered with its National Franchisee Leadership Association and the Women Operators Network to roll out a new workplace training program.

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