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.”

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Five Female Police Officers Suing for Sexual Harassment

Five female police officers in Bridgeton, New Jersey have filed a lawsuit against the city of Bridgeton as well as two Bridgeton police officers (twins Angel and Luis Santiago.) The women allege that Angel Santiago, a fellow officer, sexually harassed and discriminated against them for five years. 

Angel Santiago, the officer being accused of over 70 sexually explicit actions, allegedly made inappropriate comments towards the women as well as kissing them forcibly, smacking their butts, and preventing entry to the women’s bathroom without a kiss. In addition, Santiago also allegedly rubbed his clothed genitals on the women, grabbed their breasts and shared inappropriate cell phone images.

When the women filed a formal complaint, they said that Angel Santiago’s twin brother, Sgt. Luis Santiago retaliated against them. In the suit, Luis Santiago is accused of having a condescending attitude towards the women, insulting them, and making false complaints against them following their complaint. The women are also suing the city of Bridgeton for ignoring their complaint.

The lawsuit seeks back pay, lost wages and benefits, punitive damages, interest, attorney’s fees and costs, and reinstatement to the office jobs they held prior to the alleged retaliation of Luis Santiago.  Read about a similar officer sexual harassment case here.

Do you think sexual harassment is more likely to be covered up in male-dominated professions?

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High End Fashion Designer Sued for Sexual Harassment

Elie Tahari, a popular fashion designer whose clothes are a staple at high end retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue, is being sued by a former consultant for sexual harassment. The fashion consultant, Marcy Castelgrande, worked for the designer for 5 years before being laid off and is currently seeking $12 million in damages. 

Castelgrande is alleging that Tahari groped her private parts while she was modeling a skirt in front of a crowd of people, including her colleagues and supervisors. When Castelgrande, who was embarrassed and shocked by the incident, told Tahari to stop touching her, he yelled for her to leave. Castelgrande immediately filed a sexual harassment complaint with HR and was fired a mere two hours later. Tahari was overheard saying that he cannot work with Castelgrande because she was too sensitive and that since he had past lawsuits he could not deal with another one. Well firing someone two hours after their complaining of sexual harassment is inviting a lawsuit that includes retaliation and wrongful termination as well.  

The lawsuit also alleges that Tahari created a “sexually charged environment” at work months prior to the skirt incident. 

This is Tahari’s second lawsuit this year. The first suit was filed in April by fashion designer and former business partner, Catherine Malandrino. She is suing him for ruining her clothing line and cutting her out of a $7 million sale. 

*image by Unspash

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Prosecutor Accused of Sexually Harassing Employees

Joe Bocchini, the former prosecutor in Mercer County, New Jersey, is currently under a criminal investigation for allegedly harassing several employees over the last ten years. In addition to sending inappropriate emails with the subject line “breast of the day”, Bocchini also sent crude sexual jokes and animated cartoons. He also allegedly made unwanted overtures and touched female employees inappropriately.

Other allegations include having his secretary handle his personal affairs on the county’s time, including planning his wedding and scheduling golf tournaments. If found guilty of these allegations, Bocchini faces a mandatory 5-year prison sentence for official misconduct.

An anonymous employee of Bocchini claimed to have created a folder on her work desktop computer with all of the inappropriate emails Bocchini sent her. After telling Bocchini of the folder’s existence, it mysteriously disappeared from her desktop. There will be a hearing to determine whether or not county officials will be forced to turn over Bocchini’s emails.

Bocchini, who has been a county prosecutor for 11 years, recently retired from his position in February. He was going to come out of retirement to join the legal team of a Hamilton law firm, but when news of the allegations made headlines, Bocchini resigned.

Under both California and federal law, sexual harassment includes being in a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment can include unwanted sexual jokes, comments, showing of pornography, touching etc… For more on this issue see here.

 What do you think about a prosecutor engaging in such conduct? Do you think it should be a criminal issue (like it is here) or just a civil one?

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College Policy Says Sexual Harassment Can Occur Through Attitude and Tone of Voice

There is an outcry at St. Petersburg College that even the tone of your voice can be considered sexual harassment. The state college in St. Petersburg, Florida who promotes a zero tolerance sexual harassment policy, recently published an online pamphlet describing what they consider to be the three types of sexual harassment;  quid pro quo, hostile environment, and hostile sexual misconduct. 

  1. Quid Pro Quo (also known as ‘this for that’) refers to situations when offers (either explicit or implicit) of “education, employment participation or benefits” are linked to sexual favors.  This is one of the two definitions of sexual harassment under California and Federal law covering employees.
  2. Hostile Environment refers to “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature”. The advances must either create a hostile working environment or negatively impact a person’s job or education. Things that contribute to a hostile environment include not only sexual jokes and pornography, but “emails or computer screens.”  This is also one of the two definitions of sexual harassment under California and Federal law covering employees.  
  3. Hostile Sexual Misconduct refers to “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” from a student, employee or third party.  “[Sexual harassment] also can occur through innuendo, attitude or voice inflection. It often is not what is said, but how it’s said.” 

Many people including Samantha Harris, the director of policy research at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, believes that the College’s sexual harassment policy is too restrictive. She feels that with the implementation of the new policy, students and teachers will begin to self-censor and avoid discussing any uncomfortable topics at all—like sex or gender related issues. Instead, she believes that the school’s president should develop a policy with only one definition of sexual harassment and that the definition “be consistent with the requirements of the First Amendment, by which it is bound as a public institution.”

What do you think of St. Petersburg College’s definition of sexual harassment to include someone’s tone of voice? Do you think it is too restrictive? Doesn’t “tone of voice”, “computer screen”, and “email” just define ways in which sexual things are communicated? Showing of pornography–whether by email or computer screen–to someone who does not consent is already recognized under the law as a way to create a sexually hostile work environment.  

*image by Flickr

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Three Female Police Officers Suing for Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment can happen to anyone regardless of his or her profession, even if you are in a position of power like a law enforcement official. Three female Salt Lake City police officers are now preparing to sue the city because their sexual harassment allegations were not handled in a proper and timely manner.

Two of the officers, Melody Gray and Robin Heiden, allege that their male superior officer Findlay took a photo of the women in their swimsuits without permission and then shared the photo with coworkers. The women were afraid to report the misconduct because Findlay was their superior. Findlay is also being accused of trying to pursue a relationship with another female officer and even went as far as telling others he and that officer were already together. 

When an officer is being accused of sexual harassment against another police officer, it is customary for the force to hire an outside agency to investigate the allegations. This is not what happened. Instead, the Salt Lake City police force investigated the harassment themselves.

The claimants state that this wasn’t Findlay’s first sexual harassment offense. In 2013, a Civilian Review Board ruled that Findlay violated the department’s sexual harassment guidelines. 

Do you think the officers claims about sharing their swimsuit photos is enough to rise to the level of sexual harassment? What do you think about the difference in sexual harassment that occurs in male-dominated professions?  Do you think it is more or less prevalent than in other professions?

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Carson Mayor Accused of Sexually Assaulting Fellow Los Angeles County Groundwater Board Member

Lynn Dymally claims that mayor of Carson, Albert Robles, made unwanted sexual advances towards her on a district sponsored work trip to Washington DC back in November 2013. At the time, Dymally and Robles were representatives of an agency that manages groundwater for Los Angeles County.

Ms. Dymally claims that Robles forced himself on her in an aggressive manner and backed her into a hotel room against her will. Robles then allegedly groped Dymally, tried to remove her clothes, and then tried to have sex with her. Instead of furthering any advances, Dymally claims that Robles passed out on top of her. When the pair returned to Los Angeles, Robles allegedly bullied and harassed Dymally during Water Replenishment District board meetings, an act that left her emotionally traumatized. 

Lynn is the daughter of the late Melvyn M Dymally, a ground breaking Democratic lawmaker. Melvyn Dymally was not only one of the first persons of African and Indian origin to serve in the US Congress, he also served in the California State Senate, was the 41st Lieutenant Governor of California, and was a member of the US House of Representatives. What is interesting is that Robles started his career in politics working as an aide to Melvyn Dymally.

Robles’ response to the allegations is denial. Because he is an elected official, Robles believes that he is a target for political attacks. He claims that Dymally is only making these allegations because she has a personal vendetta against him. Robles did not support her appointment to the water board in 2013 nor did he support her reelection bid in 2014.

*image by Flickr

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