Ten former McDonald’s employees in Virginia have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the fast-food chain alleging that both McDonald’s and one of its franchisees violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by subjecting employees to “rampant racial and sexual harassment” at some restaurant locations.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, claims the chain last May simultaneously fired more than a dozen Black workers from three Virginia locations who “didn’t fit the profile” the chain desired at its restaurants. The lawsuit also says supervisors “inappropriately touched female employees on their legs and buttocks, sent female employees sexual pictures and solicited sexual relations from female employees.”
From the complaint:
Soweva’s owner, Michael Simon, explained to workers that “the ratio was off in each of the stores,” and that he just wanted “the ratio to be equal.” Soweva’s supervisors were blunt, telling employees that it was “too dark” in the restaurants, and that they were going to hire different workers because they “need to get the ghetto out of the store.” Before implementing the plan, one supervisor said to the other, “now we can get rid of the niggers and the Mexicans.”
The employees say they overheard their supervisors talk about the “need to get the ghetto out of the store,” and “get rid of the niggers and the Mexicans.” Workers also say supervisors regularly called one of the locations the “ghetto store,” referred to Black workers as “ghetto” and “ratchet.” The former employees allege their supervisors fired them because they had “too many Black people” working there.
“All of a sudden, they let me go, for no other reason than I ‘didn’t fit the profile’ they wanted at the store,” plaintiff Willie Betts, who was a cook at one of the McDonald’s, said in a statement. “I had no idea what they meant by the right profile until I saw everyone else that they fired as well. I worked at McDonald’s for almost five years, I was on time every day at four o’clock in the morning to open the store, and I never had a disciplinary write-up. They took away the only source of income I have to support my family.”
The lawsuit states that the McDonald’s Corp. representative who conducted regular inspection visits at the stores knew about the terminations but took no action.
“We asked McDonald’s corporate to help us get our jobs back, but the company told us to take our concerns to the franchisee – the same franchisee that just fired us,” plaintiff Pamela Marable said in a statement. “McDonald’s closely monitors everything we do, from the speed of the drive-through line, to the way we smile and fold customers’ bags – but when we try to tell the company that we’re facing discrimination, they ignore us and say that it’s not their problem.”
McDonald’s Corporation’s has released a statement on the lawsuit via their media hotline.
“We have not seen the lawsuit, and cannot comment on its allegations, but will review the matter carefully,” said McDonald’s in a statement. “McDonald’s has a long-standing history of embracing the diversity of employees, independent franchisees, customers and suppliers, and discrimination is completely inconsistent with our values. McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators share a commitment to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald’s restaurants.”