The District Court of Nevada recently ruled against a franchisee named AMTCR, which operates 18 McDonald’s restaurants in Arizona, California, and Nevada. The court found the defendant created an environment that allowed sexual harassment against many of its employees to flourish. AMTCR will have to distribute $2 million to these employees. Despite owning the impacted restaurants, McDonald’s was not named in the lawsuit. This case has two notable points: a government entity, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), filed the lawsuit, and all the victims were teenagers.
According to the lawsuit, the harassment dates back to 2017. AMTCR knew yet still allowed its supervisors, managers, and other employees to intimidate and harass teenage employees without consequences. Examples of offensive behavior include unwanted touching, sexual comments, unwanted sexual advances, and intimidation. The environment had become so hostile that most of the harassed employees resigned.
“Many times, the most vulnerable members of society are victims of on-the-job sexual harassment; immigrants, and as we see in this case, teenagers,” explained Attorney J.J. Dominguez of The Dominguez Firm. “But they don’t have to feel powerless. They have rights, even if they resigned due to a hostile work environment. Every employer must offer a safe workspace. When they fail in that duty, harassed employees can and should take steps to stop the behavior. If going to their human resources department does not help solve the problem, it is time to contact a workplace sexual harassment lawyer,” he concluded.
As part of the settlement, AMTCR must hire an independent equal employment opportunity monitor who will be responsible for overseeing the handling of harassment and retaliation claims. Moreover, it must agree to improve sexual harassment training, keep all harassment and retaliation claims updated, and allow annual surveys of job site conditions.
McDonald’s doesn’t come out of this unscathed, despite not being named in the lawsuit. Even though two of the groups most commonly targeted for sexual harassment make up a majority of their workforce; women and teenagers, the company has done very little to protect either. On the contrary, it has been dogged by multiple sexual harassment and discrimination scandals in the last few years involving both. Besides the franchise restaurants, the same unlawful behavior has happened at many of its corporate restaurants, and even at the executive level.
Several employees at the fast food giant’s corporate restaurants have complained about a hostile work environment that encouraged sexual harassment, again involving teenage employees. Others were fired when they reported the harassment to HR. And McDonald’s international restaurants aren’t immune to reports of sexual harassment either. Workers in France and Brazil, among others, have called out pervasive sexual harassment at the restaurants that employed them.
In addition, President and CEO Steve Easterbrook was fired by the McDonald’s board in 2019 for violating company policy when he entered into a consensual relationship with a subordinate. He also received a 5-year ban from working as an executive at any other corporation. Like AMTCR, the fast-food giant promised to improve sexual harassment training for its employees. Judging from the latest news headlines, the company has had problems sticking to that promise.
The EEOC asks anyone who believes they were sexually harassed or discriminated against while working for AMTCR between January 1, 2017 and January 5, 2023, to contact the agency online, as they may be entitled to financial compensation through a claim. All inquiries are completely confidential.