(Reuters) – McDonald’s Corp has been accused in 25 new legal actions of condoning sexual harassment in the workplace and retaliating against employees who speak up.
The new charges and lawsuits against one of the world’s most recognizable brands were announced on Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union, the labor group Fight for $15, and the Times Up Legal Defense Fund, which wants to expand the #MeToo movement beyond prominent figures in Hollywood and elsewhere.
McDonald’s said it has more than 14,000 locations in the United States, over 90 percent of which are franchised, with some 850,000 workers. The Chicago-based company has also long said it should not be liable for how employees in franchised restaurants behave.
In letters sent this week to Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth and “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi, who is supporting the workers’ cause, McDonald’s Chief Executive Steve Easterbrook said the fast food chain has improved and more clearly defined its harassment policies, and trained most franchise owners.
“McDonald’s is sending a clear message that we are committed to creating and sustaining a culture of trust where employees feel safe, valued and respected,” Easterbrook wrote.
The ACLU said the legal actions include three new civil rights lawsuits, two lawsuits by workers who previously filed charges, and charges filed by workers across the country with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
More than 50 such charges and lawsuits have been filed against McDonald’s in the last three years, the ACLU said.