#MeToo Movement Takes on the Big Mac of Sexual Harassment Claims

In this Sept. 4, 2014, photo, protesters block traffic on Mack Avenue in Detroit as part of a national protest to push fast-food chains to pay their employees at least $15 an hour. The labor group Fight for $15 is now backing sexual harassment claims against fast food behemoth McDonald’s in the latest push to hold big corporations more responsible for the welfare of their workers.
Photo: Associated Press

A group of 10 women who worked for McDonald’s restaurants in nine different U.S. cities, including four teenagers, filed federal sexual harassment charges against the fast-food behemoth on Tuesday.

The women charge gender discrimination, sexual harassment on the job and being punished with retaliation when they complained about it.

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One of the women, Brittany Hoyos, tells the New York Times that she was a 16-year-old on her first job when she encountered sexual harassment at a McDonald’s in Tucson, Ariz.

In her complaint, she charges that her manager deliberately brushed up against her in narrow areas, touched her hair and tried to kiss her. Co-workers called her a “whore,” the Times reports.

Hoyos’ mother worked at the McDonald’s as well, and at first, Hoyos said, she hid the unwanted encounters from her mom as well as her dad.

“I was embarrassed,” she says in the complaint. “I felt like I was at fault or that I had done something wrong.”

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When she finally did tell her parents and also complained to her supervisors, both she and her mother ended up on the unemployment line. She was demoted and eventually fired. Her mother decided to quit out of frustration with how her daughter had been treated.

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Legal representation for Hoyos and the other women filing complaints against McDonald’s is being paid for by the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which was formed to help women fight sexual harassment in the workplace in the aftermath of the scandal involving disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

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“The stories we heard today are chilling, and they are exactly why Time’s Up was created in the first place,” Rebecca Goldman, interim CEO of Time’s Up, said in a statement to The Root. “We want more than lip service from McDonald’s. We want an unequivocal commitment to the safety and dignity of its workers.”

A total of 20 complaints were filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, while three others were filed as civil rights lawsuits, and another two are earlier complaints that are now additional lawsuits against the multibillion-dollar corporation, according to the New York Times.

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Attorneys for the women say they want to consolidate their cases with similar complaints against McDonald’s filed two years ago by the labor group Fight for $15, the Associated Press reports.

Fight for $15, which was formed to fight for a $15-an-hour living wage for McDonald’s and other fast-food workers, is also supporting this latest effort, which is a push to make the #MeToo movement more aligned to the needs of lower-income women and not only seen as a force for higher-profile victims of sex harassment, according to the AP.

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“What we’re seeing over and over again in these claims—for these workers, they’re put in a position where you have to put up with the harassment, or you lose the paycheck that’s keeping you in a house or keeping groceries on your table,” Sharyn Tejani, director of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, told the New York Times.

McDonald’s, in a response to AP via email, said: There is “no place for harassment and discrimination of any kind” in the workplace.

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“McDonald’s Corporation takes allegations of sexual harassment very seriously and [is] confident our independent franchisees who own and operate approximately 90 percent of our 14,000 U.S. restaurants will do the same,” spokeswoman Terri Hickey said.

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