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Former employees accuse McDonald’s of serving up racism

A federal civil rights lawsuit is the latest P.R. headache for the embattled fast-food giant.

Former employees accuse McDonald’s of serving up racism
[Photo: Flickr user Consumerist Dot Com]

McDonald’s employees aren’t lovin’ it. Topping off a recent streak of worker strikes and impending court battles the fast food giant’s latest PR black eye: a federal civil rights lawsuit.

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In litigation filed today, former employees of a McDonald’s franchise in Virginia are accusing their former supervisors of racism and sexual harassment, painting the company in a very unflattering light.

A report by Bloomberg Businessweek breaks down some of the potentially damning details:

In a Civil Rights Act lawsuit filed Thursday morning in federal court, ex-workers of McDonald’s franchisee Soweva Co. in Virginia say a supervisor called black employees “bitch,” “ratchet,” and “ghetto.” She allegedly removed her false teeth and suggested having oral sex with employees. Another supervisor called a Hispanic employee “dirty Mexican” and “hot Mexican,” sent employees pictures of his genitals, and inappropriately touched workers, according to the lawsuit.

Supervisors ultimately terminated black and Hispanic employees because they didn’t “fit the profile,” the lawsuit says. When the workers reached out to head office, “McDonald’s Corporate … did nothing.” The lawsuit says McDonald’s “is liable as Plaintiffs’ employer” which “acquiesced in and ratified Soweva’s conduct.”

These charges are only being leveled at a single franchisee, but the case could open up critical questions about the company’s franchise model and how it works.

Labor activists are also hoping the whole affair could help illuminate a broader trend. This is certainly not the first time McDonald’s has come under fire for the way it treats its workers in general. Last month, the company was one of several low-wage employers targeted by precedent-setting employee strikes spanning nearly 200 cities. This frustration has been swelling publicly since at least 2012 and if last month’s demonstrations are any indication, it shows no sign of slowing.

For its part, McDonald’s assured Bloomberg Businessweek that the company “has a long-standing history of embracing the diversity of employees, independent franchisees, customers and suppliers, and discrimination is completely inconsistent with our values.”

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About the author

John Paul Titlow is a writer at Fast Company focused on music and technology, among other things. Find me here: Twitter: @johnpaul Instagram: @feralcatcolonist

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