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Former McDonald's employee files suit, alleging sexual harassment

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A former McDonald's employee from Michigan has filed a proposed class action lawsuit against the company. The lawsuit was filed in Ingham County Circuit Court this morning, and is being backed by the ACLU and TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund.

According to the lawsuit, “managers did nothing to protect workers subjected to pervasive sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, including groping and physical assaults as well as sexually-charged verbal taunts, insults, and derisive comments.”

Eve Cervantez is the attorney for the single named plaintiff. She says the lawsuit represents what she calls a widespread issue of sexual harassment at McDonald’s franchises.

“This particular lawsuit is about all of the women workers who worked at that one restaurant outside of Lansing, Michigan, which we believe is emblematic of the problem overall at McDonald's,” says Cervantez.

Jenna Ries is the plaintiff Cervantez is representing. She used to work at a McDonald’s location in Mason, near Lansing. 

“I'm speaking out publicly for the first time to make sure what happened to me doesn't happen to anyone else at McDonald's. This is not just about me. This is about countless McDonald's workers around the country who have survived sexual harassment on the job. We deserve to feel safe at work,” she says.

In the lawsuit, Ries alleges she never received any training on how to combat harassment in the workplace. She also says the manager who harassed her frequently threatened to have her fired.

McDonald’s workers went on strike today in Detroit after the lawsuit was filed. Workers are seeking the right to unionize and a $15/hour minimum wage. Many of those striking hope that a union could solve issues like low pay, as well as the issue of workplace sexual harassment.


McDonald’s passed along the following statement in response to the lawsuit:


“There is a deeply important conversation around safe and respectful workplaces in communities throughout the U.S. and around the world, and McDonald’s is demonstrating its continued commitment to this issue through the implementation of Safe and Respectful Workplace Training in 100% of our corporate-owned restaurants. We are encouraged by the partnership and commitment from the National Franchisee Leadership Association and the Women Operators Network that represent franchisees across the U.S. to work with franchisees to implement this important Safe and Respectful workplace training program.” – McDonald’s Corporation

In addition to the Safe and Respectful Workplace Training, McDonald’s has taken other steps on this topic:


  • Enhanced policy on discrimination, harassment and retaliation prevention in January 2019 informed by RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. The policy contains clear language on workplace conduct, manager responsibilities, employee resources, and the investigation process. The full policy, which applies at all corporate-owned restaurants is made available as a resource to franchisees, is available here, embedded in McDonald’s larger global human rights commitment.


  • Extended resources in June 2019 and McDonald’s Corporation now offers a free intake hotline to call with any employment concerns that franchisees may offer to their employees to supplement what franchisees offer in their organizations.


  • Committed to annual policy and training reviews informed by continuous feedback from stakeholders, employees, and franchisees.


  • Developed global gender balance and diversity strategy. By 2023, McDonald’s Corporation aims to improve the representation of women at all levels, achieve gender equality in rewards and career advancement, and better recognize the impact of women on its business. As part of this initiative, in March McDonald’s signed on to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles to help accelerate global efforts to address this critical issue. Read more on this initiative here.


  • Reiterated Long-Standing Inclusive Contractual Practices. McDonald’s Corporation does not and will not, as a condition of employment, require mandatory arbitration of harassment and discrimination claims. Read more here.


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