Former McDonald’s workers who claim they were subjected to repeated sexual harassment at a Michigan McDonald’s franchise have reached a $1.5 million settlement with the former owner of the restaurant.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Women’s Rights Project, which filed the class-action lawsuit alongside former McDonald’s employee Jenna Ries with the support of the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, announced that the proposed settlement had been submitted for approval in federal court on Monday.
Ries, a worker at a Mason, Michigan, McDonald’s restaurant for three years, originally filed the suit in 2019 against both the McDonald’s Corporation and the Michigan-based franchisee, who has since sold the restaurant but operated under the names MLMLM Corporation and M.A.A.K.S., Inc.
Ries alleged that the store’s general manager regularly propositioned her for sex at work, touched her body inappropriately, and referred to her with slurs like “b***h,” “c**t” and “s**t” while speaking to other workers.
“No one should have to put up with sexual harassment to get a paycheck,” Ries said in a statement on Monday. “I filed this lawsuit because I didn’t want other women to go through what I did while working at McDonald’s.”
“I hope those who were abused will get the compensation they deserve, but I also hope McDonald’s will listen to survivors, and do everything possible to prevent sexual harassment in its restaurants,” she added.
The judge in the case ruled in favor of the class-action suit moving forward in December of last year, applying to approximately 100 more women and teenage girls who had worked at the restaurant. About 20 other women submitted sworn statements in support of Ries’ original lawsuit, alleging similar behavior from the same manager.
If the settlement is approved, the financial responsibility will fall entirely at the feet of MLMLM Corporation and M.A.A.K.S., Inc., since the judge granted a request from McDonald’s Corporation to be released from the lawsuit last year. The former workers will each be eligible for awards that average around $10,000, depending on the extent of the harassment suffered.
“While this settlement is a win for dozens of Mason McDonald’s workers who claimed egregious harassment, it unfortunately doesn’t go as far as we would have hoped, because McDonald’s corporate wasn’t at the table,” said Gillian Thomas, senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project.
Darcie Brault, an attorney for the Michigan plaintiffs, said in a statement that it was “unconscionable that McDonald’s continues to say ‘not it’ when it comes to sexual harassment of workers at its franchise locations.”
About 93 percent of the world’s roughly 38,000 McDonald’s locations were franchises in 2019, according to Investopedia. The vast majority of over 13,000 U.S. locations operating at the moment are also franchises.
“If McDonald’s accepted responsibility for the well-being of the nearly one million people who work under the Golden Arches, it would protect countless workers from harassment and violence,” said Brault.
Since 2016, over 100 complaints and lawsuits from former McDonald’s workers have alleged sexual harassment and abuse at the restaurants. Former McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook was also fired by the company in 2019 for lying about a relationship with a fellow employee.
The company announced that it was introducing mandatory training intended to combat sexual harassment and violence last year.
Newsweek reached out to McDonald’s Corporation for comment.