TEN FORMER McDonald’s workers in Virginia have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the fast-food chain which claim supervisors voiced racial and sexual abuse at them before firing them because the stores had “too many black people”.
The employees claim to have overheard supervisors talk about the “need to get the ghetto out of the store”, and “get rid of the n*****s” and the Mexicans”.
They were all fired last May and yesterday it emerged nine are African-American and one is Hispanic. They filed a complaint in the US district court against McDonald’s and Michael Simon, the owner of the three franchises where they worked.
A spokesman for McDonald’s said: “McDonald’s has a long-standing history of embracing the diversity of employees, independent franchisees, customers and suppliers, and discrimination is completely inconsistent with our values.”
Last year,the National Labor Relations Board ruled that McDonald’s could be held liable for work violations at its franchised stores.
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All ten plaintiffs say they were told they were good workers, but that they “didn’t fit the profile” of desirable employees.
Willie Betts, who had worked at McDonald’s for five years as a cook, said he was never late and had no disciplinary history.
“All of a sudden, they let me go, for no other reason than I ‘didn’t fit the profile’ they wanted at the store,” Betts said. “I had no idea what they meant by the right profile – until I saw everyone else that they fired as well.”
In 2013, Soweva, Simon’s franchise company, took over the McDonald’s restaurants where the plaintiffs worked. About 15 black workers, including nine of the plaintiffs, were fired from Soweva, on 12 May, 2014.
The majority of the restaurants’ employees were black, and “the ratio was off in each of the stores”, the complaint alleges.
After they were fired, the plaintiffs called McDonald’s headquarters to complain about their termination, and the racial discrimination they say they experienced.
“We asked McDonald’s corporate to help us get our jobs back, but the company told us to take our concerns to the franchisee – the same franchisee that just fired us,” said plaintiff Pamela Marable.
The plaintiffs want McDonald’s to be held accountable for the actions of its franchisee.
McDonald’s exercises a degree of control over its franchisees when it comes to service, branding and uniforms. But when it comes to wages and staff’s treatment, however, the firm says the franchisees are in charge.
“McDonald’s closely monitors everything we do, from the speed of the drive-thru line to the way we smile and fold customers’ bags – but when we try to tell the company that we’re facing discrimination, they ignore us and say that it’s not their problem,” said Marable.