LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK — Ten women who work at McDonald’s restaurants in Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and six other cities have filed sexual harassment complaints in the past few days with the federal government against the company and its franchisees, which they said ignored or retaliated against them for such complaints.
The complaints, filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), are the latest effort by the union-backed Fight for $15 to have McDonald’s designated a “joint employer” of workers at McDonald’s franchises and thereby liable when its franchisees violate labor laws.
The claimants, including a 15-year-old from St. Louis, said in a conference call with journalists that they were ignored, mocked or terminated for reporting the behavior. The accusations included claims that co-workers or supervisors sexually propositioned, groped or exposed themselves to the women.
“I felt I had no choice but to tolerate it,” Kimberley Lawson, 25, who makes $8.75 per hour at a McDonald’s in Kansas City, Missouri, said on a conference call with reporters.
The restaurant industry, which employs half of American women at some point in their lives, has one of the country’s largest sexual harassment problems because its low-wage and largely female workforce is vulnerable to mistreatment from customers and colleagues.
The complaints against McDonald’s and the franchisee operators of the restaurants where the women work are similar to sexual harassment accusations also filed with the EEOC two years ago and land ahead of the company’s annual meeting on Thursday.
McDonald’s spokeswoman Terri Hickey said the company was dismissed from the 2016 claims because they did not employ the individuals who filed the complaints.
Hickey said McDonald’s has policies that prohibit sexual harassment at the company and at the restaurants it owns and operates, while franchisees are responsible for setting employment policies for their restaurants.