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McDonald’s Workers Bring New Harassment Claims (2)

May 21, 2019, 3:21 PMUpdated: May 21, 2019, 8:02 PM

McDonald’s workers filed five new workplace sexual harassment lawsuits and 20 new harassment charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on May 21.

The filings are in anticipation of the fast food chain’s annual shareholder meeting on May 23. Protests were planned for May 21, as well as for the same time as the meeting.

Employees in 13 different states filed the 20 charges with the civil rights agency describing harassment on the job. Workers must file a charge with the EEOC before they can bring a lawsuit alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The lawsuits filed on May 21 allege discrimination at both franchised and corporate McDonald’s locations. The restaurant chain is currently embroiled in litigation with the National Labor Relations Board over the scope of responsibility McDonald’s corporate has over its franchised locations, after workers at a franchise were terminated for participating in Fight for $15 protests.

Organizers, including the Fight for $15, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, are hosting a protest on May 21 in Chicago outside the company’s headquarters to publicize the harassment charges.

The overarching TIME’S UP organization also penned an open letter to McDonald’s executives on May 21, urging the company to change the “dangerous conditions” in franchise locations “around the globe.” The group requested systemwide training, reporting mechanisms, a commitment to not retaliate when workers come forward, and a promise to share how much harassment is taking place on the corporate and franchise levels of the business.

“Come to the table and talk to us. Hear our story,” ACLU Women’s Rights Project senior staff attorney Gillian Thomas said on a press call. “Hear how the policies on the books are meaningless in our day-to-day lives.”

McDonald’s chief executive officer, Steve Easterbrook, recently announced in a response to Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) that the company is doing more to address harassment by providing additional training and a reporting hotline. Easterbrook said that 90% of general managers and operators have participated in the training.

This isn’t the first time the EEOC has given workers the green light to sue McDonald’s.

The agency sued a McDonald’s franchise in Muleshoe, Texas, in September on behalf of four women who alleged the restaurant subjected them to a hostile work environment.

More than three dozen harassment complaints against the restaurant chain have also been filed with the agency in the past three years, with the assistance of advocacy groups. Those charges have translated into at least two pending court cases, stemming from charges filed with the EEOC in 2016.

(Updated with additional reporting.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Paige Smith in Washington at psmith@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at snadel@bloomberglaw.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bloomberglaw.com