Ten former McDonald’s employees filed a civil rights lawsuit against the fast food giant on Thursday over claims of racial discrimination and sexual harassment at three separate locations in Virginia.
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Nine black workers and one Hispanic worker say they were subjected to “rampant racial and sexual harassment” by supervisors at three store locations in Clarkesville and South Boston.
The suit, filed under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in the workplace, alleges that McDonald’s wrongfully terminated a dozen black and Hispanic employees at the same time because they “didn’t fit the profile” desired at its restaurants, with managers reportedly telling their majority-black staff that it was to “get the ghetto out of the store.”
“All of a sudden, they let me go, for no other reason than I ‘didn’t fit the profile’ they wanted at the store,” said plaintiff Willie Betts, who worked as a cook at the South Boston location. “I had no idea what they meant by the right profile until I saw everyone else that they fired as well.”
On other occasions, supervisors allegedly said there were “too many black people” working in the stores, referred to black employees as “bitch,” “ghetto,” and “ratchet,” and disciplined them more harshly than their white co-workers.
The lawsuit comes at a time of growing resistance to McDonald’s treatment of its employees, particularly as the fight for a higher minimum wage continues to hold national attention.
Kendall Fells, organizing director of Fast Food Forward, said the claims represent a larger issue with the company’s policies. “This is a problem that goes far beyond these stores in Virginia—it’s a problem with McDonald’s business model itself when workers at the company have nowhere to turn,” Fells said on Thursday. “McDonald’s has the power to fix this problem, but instead it chooses to skirt its responsibility and hide behind its franchise model.”
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