Labor & Employment

McDonald's sued by former employees over 'racist' franchise in Virginia

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Ten former employees of a McDonald’s franchisee in Virginia are suing the company over allegations of racism, sexual harassment and wrongful termination at three of its Virginia restaurants.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court in Virginia, will test the extent of the company’s legal responsibility for the actions of its franchisees, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the Chicago Tribune and the Huffington Post report.

The suit alleges that one supervisor called black employees “bitch,” “ratchet” and “ghetto.” It says another supervisor called an Hispanic employee a “dirty Mexican,” sent employees pictures of his genitals and inappropriately touched workers.

Supervisors ultimately fired black and Hispanic employees who didn’t “fit the profile” the restaurants were looking for, according to the lawsuit (PDF). And when the fired workers reached out to McDonald’s corporate office, the company “did nothing,” the suit says.

The suit names the McDonald’s Corp., McDonald’s USA, franchisee Soweva Co., and franchise owner Michael Simon as defendants.

Nine of the 10 plaintiffs are African-Americans. One is Hispanic.

The suit is being backed by the local chapter of the NAACP and the Fight for $15 movement, a union-backed group pushing for higher wages for fast-food workers, including those working at McDonald’s.

In a statement, McDonald’s said it hadn’t yet seen the lawsuit but would “review the matter carefully.” A spokesman said the company “has a long-standing history” of embracing diversity, and that “discrimination is completely inconsistent” with its values. The franchisee could not be reached for comment.

McDonald’s and other fast-food chains have long maintained that they set certain standards but allow franchisees to make decisions on issues such as scheduling, hiring and wages, the Tribune reported.

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