Class action status granted in sexual assault case against McDonald’s manager.
Gillian Thomas, an attorney with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Projects, is representing multiple women who have alleged they were assaulted while working at McDonald’s in Mason, Michigan. A federal district judge has granted class action status in the suit against two McDonald’s franchise owners. Thomas said the number of women the McDonald’s employee assaulted is about 100.
The original complaint read, “McDonald’s, one of the largest employers in the country, creates and permits a toxic work culture from the very top.” McDonald’s was initially named a co-defendant but was dismissed from the case.
Plaintiffs testified the McDonald’s employee, Sean Banks, “made sexual jokes, commented on his subordinate employees’ bodies, groped their breasts, crotches and buttocks, and pressured them for sex,” court records show. When these incidents were reported, Banks’s supervisors did almost nothing to stop him from preying on restaurant workers. Thomas said this case is “by far the worst, of any sexual harassment lawsuit” she’s seen.
Plaintiff Jenna Ries claims Banks “put his penis in her hand while they were working next to each other,” according to court documents. Another plaintiff said she was “coerced into having sex [with him] in exchange for more hours on the schedule.”
“These are among the most vulnerable workers for a variety of reasons,” said Thomas. “They tend to be younger and have less formal education about their rights. They may have more tenuous economic circumstances because they are making minimum wage…The youth of a lot of his victims was a feature of much of his harassment. He was nicknamed the ‘Minor Violator’ by people and was known to have a fixation on girls. But also, he also harassed women who were a great deal older than him. So really, every single shift this guy worked was an exercise in verbal harassment and physical harassment.”
Thomas added, “His harassment was heard by all and seen by all. You didn’t have to be standing next to him to be subjected to his abuse. You could be in another part of the restaurant and still be subjected to a torrent of sexual talk, touching or abuse directed at other people.”
She said there are similar lawsuits alleging the sexual assault of McDonald’s restaurant workers across the nation, adding, “When we know there’s a systemic problem, there should be a systemic solution.”
McDonald’s indicated it would “begin requiring franchise owners to adopt standards to prevent and respond to sexual harassment in January 2022.” However, Thomas explained that the company “would not show the standards” to her. This leads her to believe that nothing much is going to be done to prevent this behavior from continuing to happen.
“The corporation cares a whole lot more about the profits they reap from Big Macs and fries and shakes, and pretty much don’t care about what’s happening to the people who are making those products for them,” she said.
There is a conference concerning the matter in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan scheduled for January 31. At that time, a trial date will be set.