10 McDonald’s Employees Sue for Sexual Harassment, Race Discrimination, and Wrongful Termination

Ten former employees of a Virginia McDonald’s filed a civil rights lawsuit against the fast food giant. The employees allege that their supervisors subjected them to racial and sexual harassment and wrongfully terminated them. Nine of the employees are African-American, one is Hispanic, and seven are women. The plaintiffs are seeking lost wages, emotional distress, and other damages from the suit—which is being supported by the South Boston NAACP.

Some examples of harassment that the employees alleged they endured includes:

  1. Supervisors touched female employees inappropriately.
  2. Supervisors sent female employees sexually inappropriate images.
  3. Supervisors solicited sex from female employees.
  4. Supervisors complained that there were too many black people in the store.
  5. Supervisors referred to African-American employees as “bitch”, “ghetto”, and “ratchet”. 
  6. Supervisors referred to Hispanic employee as a “dirty Mexican”.
  7. Supervisors punished African-American workers for breaking rules, while white employees got away with similar infractions.
  8. Supervisors devised a plan to reduce the number of African American employees working at the franchise.
  9. Nine employees were fired because they didn’t “fit the profile”.
  10. Employees were criticized about their hair or looks.

The suit is charging both McDonald’s corporate and the local franchise. The plaintiff’s attorney, Paul Smith, believes that McDonald’s corporate controls every aspect of the franchise including mandating policies and training supervisors how to deal with harassment. McDonald’s neither denied or confirmed the allegations but claims to have a “long standing history of embracing the diversity of employees, independent Franchisees, customers and suppliers.”

*image by Flickr

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Sexually Harassed Farmworkers Win $17 Million

Sandra Lopez, an immigrant from Chiapas Mexico, along with five other women, recently won a $17 million sexual harassment suit against their employer, Moreno Farms, a packing plant in Florida. According to the suit Lopez and the five women were subjected to graphic acts of sexual harassment that included rape, attempted rape, propositioning, and groping by three male supervisors. 

According to the Miami New Times, Lopez said she was dragged into her supervisor’s trailer and raped for half an hour. The other five women claimed they were fired when they didn’t comply with their supervisors’ sexual advances. 

Despite the large sum awarded to the women, collecting the money will be very difficult. As the case was coming to an end, Moreno Farms shut down and the owner fled to avoid going to jail.

Even though the women may never see a cent, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission still believes that the ruling was significant.  That’s because it shows farmworkers that they have rights despite their current immigration status. The EEOC is committed to protecting immigrants and vulnerable populations that are being subjected to discrimination and harassment by their employers.

Do you think that immigrants are particularly vulnerable to workplace sexual harassment? 

*image by Unsplash

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Uber and Airbnb Executives Sued for Sexual Harassment and Overtime

Julieta Yang, a 45 year old mother of three from the Philippines and live-in domestic worker is suing her power couple former employers for alleged sexual harassment and wage theft.

Yang claims that her employers, Cameron Poetzscher, (the head of corporate development for Uber) and Varsha Rao (the head of global operations for Airbnb), subjected her to a sexually hostile work and home environment during her time of employment. She also claims they failed to pay her for minimum wage and overtime. 

The San Franciscan tech executives, who have two children, first hired Yang in March 2008 while they were living in Singapore. Yang claims that Poetzscher would watch her cook dinner for the family, all the while being completely naked. When Rao traveled for work, the sexual harassment got worse for Yang. According to the suit, Yang was subjected to Poetzscher’s frequent nudity, sexual comments, sexual advances, and unwanted touching including rubbing his groin against her. Poetzscher warned Yang about complaining to Rao because she would get angry. 

In July of 2013, the couple moved to San Francisco. They offered to triple Yang’s salary if she made the move with them. Though she signed a contract stating that she worked 30 hours a week for $12.50 an hour, Yang actually worked much more than that per week. In fact, she was paid a fixed rate of $450 per week regardless of the actual hours she worked. Yang also claims that she was not given legally mandated meals or breaks. 

While in San Francisco, the inappropriate behavior continued. 

  1. Poetzscher would often disrobe in the room that Yang was working in.
  2. Poetzscher asked Yang to give him a massage using a rolling pin. He later apologized saying he was not supposed to act that way in the US.
  3. Poetzscher would use the toilet with the door open. 
  4. When Yang asked to talk to Pao about the behavior, Pao told her that she didn’t have time to talk and that Poetzscher would have to handle it. 

The San Francisco tech executives claim that Yang’s allegations are completely false. Pao and Poetzscher claim that Yang was part of the family for seven years and just up and left in April.

Do you think live in domstic workers are more vulnerable to this sort of harassment? 

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Con-Edison to Pay $3.8 Million for Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment to Over 300 Women

Consolidated Edison, one of the largest energy companies in the United States, just settled a gender discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit with more than 300 women employees totaling $3.8 million.

The female employees that filed the lawsuit claim that they were harassed, paid less than male employees doing similar work, and not given promotions because of their gender. In addition, female employees also allegedly endured the following:

  1. One female employee was given a form with graphic images of female body parts. 
  2. One female employee alleges a male co-worker purposely ran in to her parked truck. 
  3. When any of the female employees had discrepancies in the workplace they were labeled as “angry”. 
  4. An employee claims she was terminated as retaliation when she filed a discrimination complaint. 
  5. The investigation, which began in 2007, was the result of Consolidated-Edison failing to address the hostile working environment complaints alleged by female employees. Female employees were feeling they had to ‘’toughen up’ in order to continue working in the “boy’s club”. 

Payouts will begin being distributed amongst 300 female employees. Each employee will receive $5,000 and then Consolidated-Edison has an additional pool of money set aside for employees that experienced repeated or more severe cases of harassment, termination or retaliation.

The settlement sends a message to Consolidated-Edison, employers across New York state, as well as companies nationwide, that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently went on record saying that “All women—especially those working in male-dominated workplaces—deserve respect and equal treatment.” We agree. 

*image by Reeve Jolliffe, Flickr

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California Passes Historic Equal Pay Law

Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a gender wage equality law that gives women new tools to protect them from being paid unfairly because of their gender. The law had bipartisan support and is one of the strongest in the nation. 

California is leading the way when it comes to addressing and tackling the gender wage inequality problem that plagues women in the United States. According to a study done in 2013, women employed full time in California were paid 84 cents for every dollar that their male counterpart earned. The gap was even greater for minority women.

Now that more and more families rely on a woman’s income, income equality is essential to having a prosperous economy. It is estimated that the gap in California alone causes families to miss out on an additional $33.6 billion a year, money that would then be pumped back into local business and economy.

As of late, high-profile actresses such as Patricia Arquette have been voicing their feelings on the matter, which is said to have influenced California lawmakers.  For example, Arquette used her Oscar moment to stir controversy with her equal-pay remarks, “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” 

Some effects of the new law are:

  1. Puts the burden on the employer to prove that a male’s salary is higher due to seniority or merit.
  2. If a woman believes she is being paid unfairly because of her gender, she can question her employer without fear of repercussion/retaliation.
  3. Encourages women to inquire if they are being paid unfairly.
  4. Opens the door for other states to follow suit.

Do you think wage inequality is intentional by employers?  Or do you think wage inequality has more to do with outside factors not having to do with discrimination?

*image byFlickr

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Employees Awarded $12 million in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit for Being Called Sluts and Accused of Having STD’s

A call center in Indianola, Iowa was recently sued by five female employees for sexual harassment. Danielle Rennenger, one of the plaintiffs, claims that she and other female employees were called derogatory names such as ‘whore’ and ‘slut’ on a daily basis during their time of employment. In addition, Rennenger also claims that she was accused of having sexually transmitted diseases at work and also forced to sit on the lap of a male co-worker.  The harassers, supervisor and co-worker, were also accused of holding up money and asking Rennenger to dance. When she complained, Rennenger claims that she was laid off in retaliation. 

Amme Roush, another plaintiff, claims that her supervisor asked her what her favorite sexual position was. When she called in sick one day, the same supervisor told the office it was because she had a sexually transmitted disease. In addition, she also alleges that she (and other female employees) were referred to as sluts and other derogatory names. 

Though a jury returned a $11.9 million verdict in Rennenger’s favor, collecting the money might prove to be very difficult. Because $10 million total was awarded in punitive damages against four independent companies (Manley Toy Direct LLC, Toy Network LLC, SLB Toys USA Inc, and Aquawood, LLC), it will be very difficult for Rennenger to collect money from any one company. Rennenger’s attorney believes that the corporate structure of the call center was set up in a way to protect the companies from lawsuits such as these. 

Though Rennenger has yet to receive any money from the lawsuit, she feels happy knowing that the jury ruled in her favor and that the harassment is out in the open and on record. 

What do you think of these crazy allegations?

*image by Michael Lokner, Flickr

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Rihanna Financial Manager Sued for Race and Sex Discrimination Because of Alleged Statement that Rihanna is “Hot”

Robert Solomon, a former employee at Flynn Family Office, a New York-based financial management firm, has filed a lawsuit against the company because he opposed racist and sexist comments made by his co-workers. Solomon, who was once the company’s marketing head, also claims that he was teased by his co-workers because of his age.

According to the court papers, Solomon claims that co-workers regularly made comments about the attractiveness of women as well as their skin color. A partner at the firm, Alan Kufeld, allegedly made racist comments including one about Rihanna, one of the firm’s clients. Chuffed said she was ‘hot’, but only because she was not ‘too dark.’ He then went on to rate which Caribbean nationalities were more attractive based on their skin color. When Kufeld wasn’t making racist comments about his clients, he allegedly rated the attractiveness of his female employees with Rick Flynn, the chief operating officer of the firm. 

Flynn denies the accusations saying that “FFO has always championed the rights of women and minorities, particularly in the workplace.”

In addition to Rihanna, some of Flynn Family Office’s celebrity clients include Kelly Rippa, Katie Holmes and Tory Burch. 

Do you think these facts are severe or pervasive enough to create a case for discrimination?

*image by Flickr

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Obama Orders Paid Sick Leave for Government Contractors

President Obama recently signed an executive order that will require government contractors to be given at least seven paid sick days a year. For every 30 hours worked, contractors will earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave. The new regulations will go into affect starting in 2017 and will affect around 300,000 people. 

Some studies have shown that paid sick leave not only contributes to friendlier worker relations and increased loyalty, but it is especially beneficial to workers with families. As Obama nears the end of his second term, the White House has been working diligently to expand access to paid leave. In addition to the most recent executive order, Obama has also directed the following changes this year:

1. In January 2015, Obama issued a presidential memorandum to advance up to 6 weeks of paid sick leave for the birth or adoption of a child.

2. Obama is currently pushing Congress to pass a law that would grant government employees 6 additional weeks of paid maternal leave.

3. Obama is pressing Congress to pass The Healthy Families Act which would require any business with 15 or more people, to give employees up to 7 paid sick days per year.

The United States is the only advanced nation that does not guarantee paid maternity leave. As it currently stands, only 60 percent of the total private-sector workforce in the United States, has access to some sort of paid sick leave.  In California, mandatory paid sick leave went into effect on July 1, 2015.  Over a decade ago, California also instituted paid family leave, but those funds come from the taxpayers, not employers.

What do you think of government mandating sick and family leave pay by employers?

*image by Marc Nozell, Flickr

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Home Improvement Company Sued for Pregnancy Discrimination

The CEO of Carl’s Fencing, Decking and Home Improvements and his wife are being sued by a former employee for pregnancy discrimination. Ashley Meyer, the plaintiff, claims that she was harassed by Carl and Donna DelPizzo, the defendants, when she informed them of her pregnancy. She said she was then fired after she took time off after her premature son was released from the hospital.

Meyer was hired by the DelPizzos in January 2014 as the Marketing Coordinator. According to the complaint, Meyer was asked if she had children during her interview. Under New Jersey state labor law it is against the law for a prospective employer to ask this. 

When Meyer became pregnant a few months after being hired, she said her $57,000 was cut in half. In addition to the pay cut, she began experiencing harassment in the workplace. The harassment included making comments about her hair and makeup, being rude and abrasive, and saying she had a “baby brain” when she made mistakes at work. 

When Meyer returned to work after the birth of her son, she was demoted from Marketing Coordinator to a part-time administrative sales assistant who primarily answered phones. When Meyer found out her premature son was being released from the hospital, she told the DelPizzos she would be taking six weeks of leave to be with her baby. Though Meyer is protected under the Family Leave Act (and she gave the DelPizzos 30 days notice,) they tried to convince her to continue working for the company part time. When she refused, they refused to tell Meyer whether or not she would have a job when she returned from her leave. Meyer was let go in March 2015. 

Under the Family Medical Leave Act “FMLA”, parents have 12 months from the birth of their baby to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.  In addition, a company with 50 or more employees cannot fire an employee for taking unpaid leave to care for a family member or baby. 

How prevalent do you think pregnancy discrimination is in the workplace?

*image by KT Lindsay, Flickr

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Sexual Harassment at Southern California College

Two female students at Cypress College, Gabriela Rodas and Porcia Ruiz, are suing the school for failing to take their sexual harassment claims seriously. The students allege that they were sexually harassed by their Spanish 102 professor Edgar Alex Herrera in the fall of 2013. When they complained, they were allegedly told by an administrator that the teacher had his rights.The girls are now suing the school because the school’s administration failed to fulfill their legal obligation of reporting the sexual harassment. Instead, they were told that transfer to a different school might be the best option. 

Some of the things the students claim Herrera did include complimenting their outfits, touching them, giving them unwanted hugs, and suggestively sizing them up. At one moment, he also allegedly told one of the girls that he wished he could say more, but that he was afraid he would get in trouble for being inappropriate.This comment suggests that Herrera was aware of the boundaries he was crossing.

In addition to sexual harassment, the students are also alleging civil rights violations, gender discrimination, and negligence. 

Failure to adequately investigate and prevent claims of sexual harassment is illegal for employers.  What do you think the College’s duties were here?

Interested in reading more sexual harassment cases? Check out this one that occured at UCLA or this one that happened at UC-San Diego.

*image by Sodanie Chea, Flickr

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