In early January, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that McDonald’s franchise owner AMTCR will pay nearly $2 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed on behalf of fast-food workers in California, Nevada and Arizona. The Arizona-based franchisee operates 18 McDonald’s restaurants.
The complaint said AMTCR knew that sexual harassment existed at several locations since 2017 but took no steps to correct the illegal behavior. The conduct, which included unwanted sexual advances, offensive language, unwanted touching and intimidation by supervisors, coworkers, and managers, mainly targeted teenage employees. Even when the abusive behavior was reported, AMTCR failed to take appropriate action to address complaints, forcing many workers to quit.
Teenage workers are some of the most vulnerable
The EEOC says AMTCR’s conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, forbidding sexual harassment in the workplace. The agency sued when its pre-litigation reconciliation process failed to produce a settlement. The EEOC says it continues to see younger workers subjected to workplace harassment. The agency maintains that employer’s have the responsibility to create a safe workplace and understand that younger workers are more likely to be targeted due to their age.
In addition to the monetary settlement, AMTCR agreed to update its policies, procedures, and training regarding sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. The company will create a tracking system to handle future complaints. AMTCR also consented to use a third party to monitor EEOC violations and carry out internal audits of the company’s actions. AMTCR says it will also conduct surveys with employees to assess workplace conduct.
Remedies for affected employees
The EEOC says anyone who worked for AMTCR and was sexually harassed between Jan. 1, 2017, and Jan. 5, 2023, may be entitled to damages by filing a claim with the agency. If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, it is advisable to consult with an experienced attorney.
Cases like the one involving AMTCR can be confusing since harassment is not always based on sexual desire. Further, as with AMTCR, companies often deny or ignore complaints. Therefore, proving these cases can often rest on keeping detailed records of the offensive conduct as well as finding corroborating witness statements.