McDonald’s franchisees are being hit with a plenty of sexual harassment claims in a lawsuit brought by union-backed group Fight for $15 (the organization behind many minimum wage protests). On Wednesday, the organization announced it had filed complaints on behalf of 15 McDonald’s workers in the U.S. who say they were sexually harassed on the job. They are accusing the chain of ignoring rampant sexual harassment. Workers say they were groped and propositioned, often by their managers.
In complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that enforces discrimination laws, workers accuse both McDonald’s corporate and its franchisees of not doing enough to protect them when they spoke up about the harassment. In some cases, the workers claim, the superiors were retaliated against those who spoke up. Of the fifteen complaints, thirteen were filed by women and two by men.
“As the country’s second largest employer, McDonald’s has a responsibility to set standards in both the fast-food industry and the economy overall,” Kendall Fells, organizing director for Fight for $15, said in a statement.
Workers are now planning protests in three dozen cities on Thursday regarding the claims.
The EEOC does not comment on complaints it receives. It can file lawsuits on workers’ behalf or grant them permission to bring their own cases.
While most of the complaints were filed on behalf of employees at franchised restaurants that McDonald’s Corp does not own, all of them say the company is responsible for the harassment because it controls working conditions there.
The company has denied that it is a “joint employer,” a designation that could render it liable for labor law violations by franchisees and require it to bargain with workers at those restaurants if they unionize.
Terri Hickey, spokesperson for McDonald’s, claimed: “At McDonald’s, we and our independent owner-operators share a deep commitment to the respectful treatment of everyone. There is no place for harassment and discrimination of any kind in McDonald’s restaurants or in any workplace.” She said the company takes harassment complaints seriously and was reviewing the allegation.