PHOENIX—The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona has filed charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of a Tucson mother and daughter, Maribel and Brittany Hoyos, who allege sexual harassment against McDonald’s.
The ACLU of Arizona joined the Fight for $15, with support from the ACLU and the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, to file in recent days more than 20 new sexual harassment complaints and lawsuits against McDonald’s. These new filings are part of a multi-year effort by cooks and cashiers to press the company to address widespread harassment.
The combination of suits and EEOC charges allege a trail of illegal conduct in both corporate and franchise McDonald’s restaurants—including groping, indecent exposure, propositions for sex and lewd comments by supervisors—against workers as young as 16 years old.
“No one should have to endure sexual advances, cruel comments or other forms of harassment in the workplace,” said Molly Brizgys, ACLU of Arizona senior staff attorney. “McDonald’s needs to take immediate action to ensure all of its employees know their workplace rights and can file complaints about harassment that will be taken seriously.”
Maribel and Brittany Hoyos are in Illinois today to help announce the charges and suits during a protest outside McDonald’s downtown Chicago headquarters, days ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting. Television host, author and activist Padma Lakshmi will join the workers to show her support.
An adult male co-worker preyed upon Brittany, 19, when she was a 16-year-old high school student. He made unwanted advances towards her through repeated text messages, suggestive comments and inappropriate touching. After the Hoyos’ family car was repossessed, he offered to drive her home at the end of her late shift and attempted to kiss her. When she rebuffed his advances, he turned co-workers against her. Baseless rumors started spreading about Brittany. Co-workers began calling her a “whore” and managers assigned her to undesirable jobs and fabricated write-ups that ultimately led to her firing. Brittany’s mother, Maribel, who also worked at the store, experienced retaliation for speaking up for her daughter.
Together, the suits and charges from across the U.S. reveal repeated efforts by workers to seek assistance from management after experiencing sexual harassment on the job, only to have their complaints brushed off or ignored, or, in some cases, even mocked. Many felt the brunt of retaliation, from cut hours to reduced schedules to termination.
The workers are demanding McDonald’s sit down with them to chart a path forward to end sexual harassment at the company’s restaurants once and for all. The EEOC specifically recognizes the value of worker involvement in designing systems to prevent and remediate sexual harassment.
Workers are also calling on McDonald’s to effectively implement and enforce the zero-tolerance policy against sexual harassment outlined in its manual and in its franchisees’ policies. They’re demanding the company hold mandatory trainings for managers and employees and to create a safe and effective system for receiving and responding to complaints.
The charges announced Tuesday represent the third round of coordinated complaints McDonald’s workers have filed against the company in the last three years, with more than 50 charges and suits filed in total. Despite the spotlight on the issue in high-profile industries like Hollywood and the media, nothing has changed for the burger giant’s frontline workers.
The charges and suits are just one way the workers have tried to get the company to address sexual harassment in recent months. In September 2018, McDonald’s workers across the country went on strike—the first walkout in more than 100 years to protest sexual harassment. In January, three McDonald’s workers told their stories to Gretchen Carlson as part of the Lifetime documentary Breaking the Silence. And in March, McDonald’s workers confronted the company’s global chief communications officer during a speech in Washington, D.C., demanding executives meet with workers to discuss sexual harassment.