McDonald's Is Sued Over Michigan Restaurant Boss -- WSJ
By Heather Haddon and Patrick Thomas
This article is being republished as part of our daily
reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S.
print edition of The Wall Street Journal (November 13, 2019).
The American Civil Liberties Union and a group of McDonald's
Corp. workers from Michigan sued the fast-food giant on Tuesday,
accusing the company of not properly handling allegations of sexual
harassment at one of its restaurants.
In the lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, the ACLU and
workers at a Mason, Mich., store allege that acts of harassment,
such as groping and other physical assaults, by a supervisor at the
franchisee-owned restaurant went ignored by management.
A McDonald's spokeswoman said the company has demonstrated its
commitment to safe and respectful workplaces by implementing
antiharassment training at all of its corporate-owned restaurants.
The company strengthened the training and protocol for reporting
potential employee misconduct this year for its roughly 850,000
Jenna Ries, the complainant in the suit, said she often would
leave work crying after more than a year of being verbally
assaulted and grabbed at work by a store manager. Ms. Ries said she
reported the behavior to the general manager of the
franchisee-owned McDonald's but received no help. She no longer
works at the McDonald's.
"This is not just about me," said Ms. Ries, 32 years old, during
a call with reporters on Tuesday. "We deserve to feel safe at
The Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, an initiative launched by
women in the entertainment industry following the #MeToo movement,
is also providing legal support to the plaintiffs.
The suit, filed in state court in Ingham County, Mich., is
seeking at least $5 million in damages. It also asks for McDonald's
to implement worker-centered antiharassment policies and
procedures, such as worker-led mandatory training, a safe system of
reporting, adequate investigation and discipline, and protections
against retaliation, the ACLU said.
Attorneys said the complaint extends to eight women in total,
and they expect more named complainants beyond Ms. Ries to come
forward. Time's Up and the ACLU lawyers said Tuesday that they have
spoken to employees at other McDonald's locations who also claim to
have been harassed.
In a separate complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission on Tuesday, a worker at a McDonald's restaurant in
Detroit said she was forced to quit after being transferred to
another store and having her hours cut after reporting that she was
sexually harassed by a supervisor, the ACLU said.
The ACLU said on Tuesday that at least 50 harassment complaints
have been filed against the company over the past three years. The
complaints include roughly eight company-owned stores, attorneys
said. Most of the complaints remain under investigation, the ACLU
said, and it is asking the EEOC to investigate them as a whole.
McDonald's has argued in a number of lawsuits that it shouldn't
be held responsible as a joint employer, a designation that would
make it accountable for franchisees' actions as a franchisor. A
federal appeals court last month ruled that McDonald's doesn't
exert enough control over its franchisees' employees to be
considered a joint employer and isn't liable for their
Earlier this month, McDonald's fired Chief Executive Steve
Easterbrook because of his relationship with a female employee.
Chris Kempczinski, who previously oversaw the company's U.S.
operations, succeeded Mr. Easterbrook. A McDonald's policy
prohibits the company's employees from having relationships with
direct and indirect reports at all levels.
Attorneys and plaintiffs said Tuesday that they are asking to
meet with Mr. Kempczinski to address their concerns, including how
the training is being implemented, the staffing of the complaint
hot line and how harassment complaints filed are handled by the
"We are dubious about the training's quality and how widely it's
been disseminated," said Gillian Thomas, senior staff attorney at
the ACLU Women's Rights Project.
The company has faced additional challenges at its U.S.
restaurants this year. Labor organizers and some lawmakers have
called on the company to address workplace harassment issues and
raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Write to Heather Haddon at firstname.lastname@example.org and Patrick
Thomas at Patrick.Thomas@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 13, 2019 02:47 ET (07:47 GMT)
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