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Owner of 25 Wisconsin McDonald's settles sexual harassment claim

The owner of 25 McDonald's franchises in Wisconsin is settling a federal class action lawsuit for sexual harassment. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing on behalf of 10 female employees.

The EEOC claims that improper sexual conduct took place in one of the company's restaurants during at least a five-year period.

Though the company says it encouraged employees to report sexual harassment in the workplace, male employees at the Reedsburg restaurant were accused of sexually harassing female employees. The harassment included:

  • Lewd and offensive sexual comments
  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Kissing
  • Inappropriate touching of female employees
  • Forcing female employees to touch male employees inappropriately

One female employee quit because of the hostile working environment. Two other female employees who repeatedly complained about the sexual harassment taking place said they were fired in retaliation for their complaints.

The franchise owner actually sold this particular restaurant last year. Nevertheless, the company decided to settle the case in order to avoid further litigation. As part of the settlement, the company has agreed to:

  • Pay $1 million to a total of 10 women who suffered from the sexual harassment and retaliation
  • Hire someone to monitor, solicit and resolve complaints regarding the working conditions at its restaurants on a regular basis
  • Create a toll-free hotline and email address for employees to report incidents of sexual harassment and retaliation
  • Train managers and employees regarding harassment, retaliation and employment rights

Interestingly, in this case the employer did not dispute that the sexual harassment took place. Instead, the company questioned the extent of the conduct. However, from an employee's point of view, there should be zero tolerance for sexual harassment and retaliation in the workplace. Hopefully, this settlement will send that message to management and employees of all Wisconsin businesses.

Source: wislawjournal.com, "Wis. McDonald's owner settles harassment suit (UPDATE)," July 18, 2012

Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Milwaukee sexual harassment page.

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