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Ten Women File Suit Against McDonald's For Sexual Harassment

Ten women who work in various McDonald's franchises in Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago and six other cities have filed sexual harassment complaints against McDonald's with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The women work for franchises, not corporate-run stores. Fight for $15, a union-backed group, wants McDonald's to be designated as a joint employer. As it stands now, if a franchise violates employment laws, only the franchise is liable for any rewards won in court or through settlement negotiations.

The Complaints

The workers stated that they either felt like they had no choice but to tolerate the sexual harassment or if they did go to management with the issue, were mocked, ignored or even terminated because they reported the sexual harassment. Accusations included being groped and sexually propositioned. Some even alleged that co-workers and supervisors exposed themselves to the women.

The complaints were filed against the individual franchise operators and McDonald's Corp. However, in past cases, McDonald's Corp. has not been able to be held liable for the actions of franchise owners. The complaints are similar to those filed in 2016 against McDonald's Corp. by employees of franchise owners. Because McDonald's is not a joint employer with their franchise owners, those complaints were dismissed – the franchise owners were the employers.

Sexual Harassment Policies

While McDonald's Corp. has sexual harassment policies, the franchisees get to set their own employment policies. About 90 percent of the McDonald's store are franchisees. In a statement released by McDonald's Corp. that it takes sexual harassment accusations seriously and that those operating franchises “will do the same.” A parent company may only be considered a joint employer if it has enough control over the franchises.

The EEOC Process

Once a complaint goes through the EEOC and the agency finds the cases have any merit, it will start settlement negotiations with the accused. If the settlement talks fail, then the EEOC will either sue the company or give the employees “right to sue” letters. If an employee receives a right to sue letter, she may then file a lawsuit against her employer.

The Courts

On Monday, May 21, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its previous ruling that if a worker signed an arbitration agreement, that person could not participate in a class-action lawsuit. Because the ten women filed similar sexual harassment complaints, if the court determines that McDonald's Corp. should be a joint employer, they may file a class action against McDonald's Corp.

If the women decide to file against McDonald's Corp., they risk part of their lawsuit – the part against corporate – being dismissed. If the complaints have merits, the court will most likely allow the women to continue with their complaints against the franchise owners. However, due to the recent ruling on arbitration agreements, if any of the women have signed an arbitration agreement, they will not even be allowed to follow through with a lawsuit against the franchise owners.

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