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May 20, 2019

Charges and Lawsuits Filed This Week Allege Illegal Conduct Against Workers in 15 Cities

LOS ANGELES — Emmanuel Flores has been working as a cashier at a McDonald's in the San Gabriel Valley since 2015 and was told by a supervisor that he was one of the most valuable employees. He worked close to 40 hours a week.

Until he filed reports of sexual harassment, including two propositions for sex from another supervisor and a near-daily barrage of sexually implicit comments. His reports were mostly ignored, but Flores found his work hours cut by more than half.

It's far from an isolated case. This week, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California filed charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of Flores and three other McDonald's workers in the state who allege sexual harassment.

It was part of a nationwide filing of sexual harassment EEOC charges and lawsuits this week against McDonald's in 15 cities. The filings — supported by the Fight for $15 organization, the ACLU, and the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund — were made on behalf of a total of 25 workers.

Charges in the ACLU SoCal filings include sexual propositions, repeated exposure to sexually explicit comments, and retaliations for filing complaints. The filings are the latest actions in a multi-year effort by McDonald's cooks and cashiers to press the company to address widespread harassment.

"The employees of McDonalds are what make it the most profitable fast food chain in the world, and we deserve a safe and respectful workplace," Flores said. "I suffered sexual harassment on a daily basis, and when I complained, my hours were cut."

Workers at McDonald's are particularly vulnerable as they are mostly front line, non-managerial employees, who live at the economic margins, unable to risk losing a shift or a job by filing a complaint.

A protest rally will be held this morning outside McDonald's Chicago headquarters to call attention to the charges and lawsuits. Television host, author, and activist Padma Lakshmi will join workers to show her support. McDonald's annual shareholder meeting will be held Thursday.

"McDonald's restaurants in Los Angeles tolerated, and in some cases encouraged, a workplace replete with sexual harassment, and then retaliated against workers who spoke up," said ACLU SoCal senior staff attorney Minouche Kandel. "McDonald's should lead in preventing and responding to sexual harassment, not tolerate harassment and punish workers who come forward to say #MeToo."

The workers are demanding McDonald's executives 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.