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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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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Casino Loses Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Re High Roller

A Pittsburgh cocktail waitress was recently awarded over one million dollars in a lawsuit against her employer, the Rivers Casino.

According to the report, a high-roller placed a $1 tip in Allyson Pelesky’s bra while she was serving him. As a result, he also touched her breast. Pelesky immediately reported the incident to the police but later dropped charges when she was promised that the man would not be allowed to return to the casino. A little more than a month later, the casino lifted its ban on the man, leading Pelesky to file a lawsuit against the casino for violating its zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy. 

Pelesky, who was teased by her co-workers, says she filed the lawsuit because she did not want to have to see the man who sexually harassed her every day. “Whether you’re a waitress, a manager, it doesn’t matter. We just deserve respect,” Allyson told the press. She feels that the casino only let the man return because he is a “Signature Card” player. 

Pelesky was awarded $150,000 in compensation and $999,000 in punitive damages.

According to a recent report by the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, nearly 90 percent of females that work in the restaurant industry, have experienced some type of sexual harassment at one time or another. 

How prevalent do you believe sexual harassment is in the restaurant/hospitality industry?

*image by Thomas Hawk, 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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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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County of Los Angeles Votes for Minimum Wage Increase SImilar to City of LA’s $15 per Hour by 2020

UPDATE: (July 22, 2015) The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors just voted to incrementally raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in unincorporated areas of the county over the next five years.

Following in the footsteps of Seattle and San Francisco, the city of Los Angeles recently voted to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2020 and then indexed to inflation thereafter. To put the increase in perspective, an average minimum-wage full-time worker will now receive an extra $3,000 per year.  

The first increase will be to $10.50 an hour starting July 1, 2016.  Then increased each year until July 2020, when the minimum wage will be $15 an hour. Two years later, increases will be pegged to the Consumer Price Index.  Businesses with less than 25 employees get an additional year before having their minimum wage hiked.

Like most laws, this will have winners and losers.  This is seemingly great news for minimum-wage workers, but consider the affect the increase will have on small businesses or entrepreneurs. In order to avoid a loss of profits, some businesses will be forced to move their companies to a neighboring city, raise prices, decrease their total number of employees, reduce the quality of their services, or close all together. The question is how many businesses.

This will likely hit the restaurant industry the hardest.  Restaurants fought hard to get the City Council to include tips in this new minimum wage calculation, but failed.  According to Forbes.com, after the city of Seattle raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour, they saw an increase of restaurant closures. Some people are saying up to 25% of all restaurants in the City of LA may close or move to neighboring cities.  Restaurants may also get creative by eliminating tipping and instead raising menu prices significantly and adding a service charge.  

While supporters of the minimum-wage increase believe this will lift the families of full-time workers out of poverty, the critics are not so sure. Instead, they believe the wage increase will have an inflationary affect, driving rents and other prices up. 

Do you think a large jump in the minimum wage for an individual city is a good idea? Consider the affect these increases have on things such as small business profits, unemployment, exodus of employers to neighboring cities.  How easy would it be for most small business to move to neighboring cities like Santa Monica, Culver City, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills etc.? 

*image by Flickr

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Wife of NFL Player Suing Employer for Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

Philippa Okoye, wife of NFL player Lawrence Okoye, is suing her former boss and employer for sexually harassing her, openly mocking her interracial marriage, and demoting her when she complained. When Okaye was hired as a senior investment adviser in 2013, she was the only woman working in the Manhattan division of deVere Group, the world’s largest group of international financial advisers. 

Okaye alleges that a senior area manager for deVere was the one that primarily led the harassment. Okaye alleges that the senior manager openly expressed that he wanted the office to have the same drug and sex fueled escapades seen in The Wolf of Wall Street and The Boiler Room

Okaye, the only female employee amongst 21 male-coworkers, allegedly faced sexist antics daily. In addition to making inappropriate comments, her co-workers would also allegedly rate visiting women on whether or not they were worth “f*cking”. Some of the inappropriate things said to Okaye by her coworkers during her time of employment include:

1. Don’t change your surname if you marry Lawrence, because people will think you’re black, and that’s not good for business.

2. How many cheerleaders has your boyfriend f*cked today? He’s probably f*cked the whole cheerleading squad by now.

3. So can you handle the banter or are you going to be a woman about it and be sensitive? 

4. I think it’s disgusting when white women go out with black guys. 

When Okaye complained to the senior area manager about the sexist and racist comments directed towards her, he allegedly replied, “this is why I didn’t want women in the office.” She alleges she was then demoted and eventually fired in retaliation for her complaint. 

deVere Group claims that the allegations are “false and incredulous” and that Okaye is just a disgruntled employee. 

*image by Esteban Chiner, Flickr

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