New York, NY – Two more women who were teenagers when they worked at a McDonald’s in Lansing, Michigan added their names to a growing class action sexual harassment lawsuit that was first filed last fall.
In November, the ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of former McDonald’s worker Jenna Ries and a class of at least 100 other Michigan McDonald’s workers.
According to the lawsuit, “managers did nothing to protect workers subjected to pervasive sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, including groping and physical assaults, as well as sexually-charged verbal taunts, insults and derisive comments.”
This is not the only class action lawsuit for sexual harassment brought against the fast food giant. While the Michigan lawsuit targets a single franchise-owned restaurant, in April two women announced they were joining a previously filed $500 million class-action lawsuit for systemic sexual harassment at over 100 company-owned stores in Florida.
Eva Cervantes is one of the attorneys representing the two new plaintiffs. She noted that for years, a serial harasser terrorized young girls at the Lansing, Michigan restaurant, and that out of three successive general managers, not one put a stop to the harassment.
“The amended complaint alleges that this restaurant is not an aberration but, instead, is emblematic of McDonald’s restaurants nationwide. It alleges that this restaurant is a reflection of a corporate culture that is toxic from the top that permits sexual harassment against its workers to go unchecked,” said Cervantes.
Katlyn Barber worked at the Lansing, Michigan restaurant for one year after graduating from high school. She said that her manager, “a much older man,” harassed her by making lewd comments to her and other female employees. She notified the general manager, but Barber said the general manager just laughed and ignored her complaint. She eventually became so distraught that she quit.
“I didn’t know what to do, so in the Fall of 2018, I quit. I needed the money, but I didn’t know what else to do,” said Barber.
But she’s hopeful that there’ll be change by joining the lawsuit.
“I’ve learned so much from the other women who have come forward and spoken out. Survivors who have had to deal with sexual harassment at McDonald’s are banding together and we’re saying we won’t allow this to continue.”
Similarly, Emily Anibal worked for a year at the restaurant and endured harassment. She worked at the drive-through window and her manager would make lewd comments over the headset; he also physically harassed Anibal and her fellow female colleagues.
She, too, had to quit because the harassment became unbearable.
“Katlyn and I are adding our voices to this lawsuit against McDonald’s because this company needs to step up and protect its workers. We’re here today to tell McDonald’s we won’t stop speaking out until McDonald’s listens and lets survivors lead on solutions,” said Anibal.
Cervantes echoed Anibal by noting that the lawsuit aims to compel McDonald’s to make systemic changes.
“No teenager should have to endure sexually-laden comments or be propositioned by a manager on the job. The plaintiffs ask that McDonald’s sit down and talk to its workers to really hear and understand what happens to targets of sexual harassment. The lawsuit asks that McDonald’s implement worker-led solutions, in short the lawsuit asks that the company take a stand against sexual harassment,” Cervantes said.
Additionally, Gillian Thomas, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU noted the significance of bringing the lawsuit against a franchise-owned restaurant.
“The corporate office consistently disclaims responsibility for what happens at its franchisees [but] they control the shape of the special sauce on the Big Mac, they control the kind of pickles that go on their burgers [so] they can control these conditions and hold franchisees accountable,” said Thomas.
The class action lawsuit also seeks monetary compensation of at least $5 million for emotional distress and lost wages, according to Cervantes.