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McDonald’s employees reach settlement agreement for harassment

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Former McDonald’s employees who alleged rampant sexual harassment at their Michigan restaurant have reached a $1.5 million settlement with the restaurant’s former owner.

The American Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights Project, which helped represent the employees, announced the settlement agreement Monday. It still needs to be approved by a federal judge.

Former McDonald’s employee Jenna Ries sued the Michigan-based franchisee, which operated as MLMLM Corp. and Maaks Inc., and Chicago-based McDonald’s Corp. in 2019.

Ries, who worked at a Mason, Michigan, McDonald’s for three years, alleged that a general manager ignored her male colleague’s repeated harassment of her and other female workers, including groping, physical assault and epithets verbal.

Ries said she often cried on the way to work and felt physically ill. Eventually, she was transferred to another location, but the colleague who allegedly harassed her remained at the original location.

Ries said she sued so other women wouldn’t have to go through what she went through.

“No one should have to put up with sexual harassment to get a paycheck,” Ries said in a statement.

Last year, a federal judge granted class action status to the lawsuit, based on evidence showing that the same male worker constantly and severely harassed about 100 women and teenage girls who worked at the store. If the settlement is approved, the workers will be able to claim an average compensation of $10,000 depending on the extent of the harassment they suffered.

Ries initially sought at least $5 million in damages for herself and other employees. But McDonald’s Corp. successfully argued that he did not directly employ women. Approximately 95% of the 14,000 McDonald’s stores in the United States are owned and operated by franchisees.

Ries’ lawyers said they had hoped McDonald’s would accept more liability.

“It is unconscionable that McDonald’s continues to say ‘not that’ when it comes to sexual harassment of workers in its franchises,” said Darcie Brault, attorney for Ries and other plaintiffs.

Emails and phone messages seeking comment were left with attorneys for the franchisee, which no longer owns the Mason, Michigan restaurant.

McDonald’s said it had no comment on the proposed settlement.

The lawsuit came amid a bigger tally for McDonald’s for sexual harassment in its stores and offices.

Since 2016, at least 100 formal complaints and lawsuits have been filed for workplace harassment at McDonald’s restaurants, the ACLU said. In 2019, the company also fired its former CEO Steve Easterbrook for violating a policy prohibiting relationships between supervisors and their subordinates.

Last April, the company announced it would mandate worker training and reporting procedures to address harassment, discrimination and violence in its restaurants around the world starting this year.

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.

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