Almost a dozen workers from three Virginia McDonald’s have dropped a withering lawsuit on the company today, claiming that a new franchise owner, Michael Simon, came in with “a plan to reduce the number of African-American employees and hire more white employees” because “the ratio was off in each of the stores,” and that the fast-food company did not do anything about it. The ten plaintiffs, who include one Hispanic worker, say once in charge, Simon made changes that fit his leadership vision, as is common in franchise operations. The sorts of “changes” he had in mind, however, seemed to mostly just be the systematic firing of all of them.
According to the group, job discrimination on the basis of skin color and sexual harassment was already going on when Simon signed on. Among the more bombshell allegations are that supervisors:
• “Inappropriately touched female employees on their legs and buttocks; sent female employees sexual pictures; and solicited sexual relations from female employees.”
• Called the black employees “ghetto” and “ratchet.”
• Called Hispanic workers “dirty Mexican.”
• Said to one another after Simon came in, “Now we can get rid of the n—ers and the Mexicans.”
• Also said, “if we have black people in the front [drive-thru] window, we need a white in the second [drive-through window].”
Simon, the suit goes on to say, allegedly hired “a large number of white employees” in March of last year right before terminating about 15 African-Americans, including the nine plaintiffs, who were told “they were good workers, but they ‘didn’t fit the profile’ of his organization.”
The workers reportedly turned to McDonald’s corporate to help them get their jobs back; the suit alleges the workers earned “near-minimum wages.” In a statement, one of the ousted workers said that the company “told us to take our concerns to the franchisee — the same franchisee that just fired us.” This last part could have particularly bleak consequences for the Oak Brook headquarters when added on top of the NLRB’s decision last year that corporations are “joint employers” and so can be legally on the hook when franchises misbehave.