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McDonald’s Employees Reach $1.5M Settlement in Harassment Case

McDonald’s Employees Reach $1.5M Settlement in Harassment Case

For the past several years, we have been following the trouble McDonald’s has had with sexual harassment in its franchise restaurants. On April 4, 2022, those troubles led to a $1.5M settlement for former employees at a Michigan Mcdonald’s, according to an ABC News Report. This settlement comes on the heels of a 2021 strike in several states organized to protest ongoing issues with harassment in McDonald’s locations across the country. It is one of the larger harassment settlements reported by the fast food giant.

A female employee initially filed the case, leading to the settlement in 2019. Other employees joined the suit, which was certified as a class action in 2021. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff alleged a general manager ignored her and her co-workers’ complaints of harassment consisting of “groping, physical assault, and verbal epithets.” Among the physical effects of the harassment, the lead plaintiff claimed she often cried on the way to work and ultimately transferred to another location. Still, the accused of harassment was allowed to remain at the site where the repeated incidents occurred.

McDonald’s argued it had no responsibility for the harassment due to the incidents allegedly occurring at a franchise rather than at a corporate facility. This is a regular argument for the company, which has repeatedly denied responsibility despite rampant allegations of a lack of institutional control throughout the organization. Indeed, the ABC News report notes since 2016, at least 100 formal complaints and lawsuits alleging harassment have been filed against McDonald’s, and the company has agreed to require mandatory harassment training in all of its locations.

Major corporations have a history of failing to ensure employees are free from harassment and discrimination at work. While agreeing to implement a mandatory training session is a start, what is truly necessary is a full-scale program aimed at company-wide cultural improvement and a desire to do better for its employees. To that end, the lawsuit that was the subject of this settlement alleged the employee made several complaints that were ignored. Managers have to do a better job of immediately investigating and stopping incidents when they are reported. Companies also must empower their employees to speak up and give them the respect they deserve when they do so. Only then can incidents be prevented.

Syntrio believes all companies can benefit from a comprehensive cultural improvement program. The components of such a program include civility and respect training; speak up/listen up training; prevention of harassment and discrimination training; mindfulness training; and other communicative tactics to ensure employees at all levels know the organization cares for their mental health and well-being. Instead of implementing tone-deaf compliance forward harassment training, now is the time to look at what type of environment your employees are coming to work in and ensure you are willing to do better. Failing to do so could lead to the following multi-million-dollar verdict or settlement (and subsequent major PR hit) like McDonald’s is facing today.

We welcome the opportunity to speak with a member of your team about the ways Syntrio can assist with improving your organizational culture. In addition to a full menu of training opportunities, we have developed several communication tools and mechanisms that allow us to act as your partner in cultural improvement. Far more than just a training company, we are confident we can help your organization remain on the proper path to a healthy and engaged workforce.

Since 2007, Jonathan has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management. Jonathan focuses his practice on advising employers on the prevention of harassment and discrimination issues, with an emphasis on providing in-person harassment training programs to companies of all sizes. Jonathan is licensed in California, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and maintains a national advice practice.

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