Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Owner of 25 McDonald's Franchises in Wisconsin Settles Sexual Harassment Suit with EEOC for 1 Million Dollars

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced a substantial settlement involving the owner of 25 Wisconsin McDonald's fast food chain franchises.  The suit was a class action lawsuit filed by the EEOC alleging sexual harassment and that male employees were permitted to create a hostile work environment of sexual harassment against female co-workers, some of whom were teenagers, and by retaliating against those who complained about sexual harassment.  From the EEOC press release on the settlement: 

According to the EEOC’s complaint, since at least 2006, several male employees subjected female co-workers to sexual harassment, including sexual comments, kissing, touching of their private areas, and forcing their hands onto the men’s private parts.  Despite being notified of the situation, Missoula Mac failed and refused to take prompt and appropriate action to correct the harassment and the resulting hostile environment, forcing at least one of the harassed employees to quit.  Further, the company fired other harassed employees after they complained repeatedly about their co-workers’ behavior.  Three women previously employed at the Reedsburg McDonald’s filed discrimination charges with the EEOC that led to the lawsuit.  

Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The EEOC filed its suit (EEOC and Dunse, Brown, and Gay v. Missoula Mac, Inc. d/b/a McDonald’s Restaurants, .No. 3:11-cv-00267-bbc) in April 2011 after first attempting to reach an out-of-court settlement through its conciliation process.
U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb entered a four-year consent decree today resolving the suit.  Under its terms, Missoula Mac will pay out $1 million in compensatory damages to 10 former employees who experienced sexual harassment and retaliation during their employment at the Reedsburg McDonald’s.  The company will also (1) create an ombudsperson position responsible for monitoring, soliciting and resolving complaints of sexual harassment or retaliation; (2) establish telephone and e-mail hotlines for employees to report sexual harassment or retaliation; (3) evaluate its managers’ and supervisors’ performance based in part on whether their restaurants comply with anti-harassment and anti-retaliation laws and policies; (4) track and maintain records of all sexual harassment and retaliation complaints; (5) implement a comprehensive training program to enable its employees to identify sexual harassment and properly investigate internal complaints; (6) post notices at all its restaurants informing employees that it has settled a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit with the EEOC and publicizing some settlement terms; and (7) provide periodic reports to the EEOC showing it is complying with the terms of the decree.
This is a tremendous victory for the EEOC and the plaintiffs involved in this suit as it shows that even employees in workplaces such as McDonald's who are often ignored and treated less than they deserve merely because it's the fast food industry have rights and employers will be punished severely for not enforcing those rights.   

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