Multiple Women, Including Teens, Were Abused at Reedsburg Restaurant; Some Were Fired for Complaining, Federal Agency Charges
MILWAUKEE — The McDonald’s restaurant in Reedsburg, Wis. , owned and operated by Missoula Mac, Inc., violated federal civil rights laws by permitting male employees to create a hostile work environment of sexual harassment against female employees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed this morning in federal district court in Madison, Wis.
The EEOC filed suit on behalf of a class of women it said were subjected to sexual comments, sexual propositions, or physical touching by co-workers. The suit also alleges that some of the women were fired in retaliation for complaining about the sexually hostile work environment and that the harassment was so intolerable that at least one woman was forced to quit her job to avoid it.
John Rowe, director of EEOC’s Chicago District, which includes Wisconsin, noted that the agency’s administrative investigation, which preceded the lawsuit, revealed that male employees at the Reedsburg McDonald’s made sexual comments about the bodies of female co-workers, propositioned them, and touched them inappropriately. Further, Rowe said, several of the victims were teenaged high school students.
“One of the distressing things is how young some of the victims appear to have been,” said Rowe. “Another is that some of the employees who complained about what was going on were allegedly either fired or ignored. It’s cause for considerable concern, especially at a business which employs so many young and vulnerable women.”
The EEOC’s lawsuit stems from discrimination charges filed by three former employees of the McDonald’s restaurant located at 1500 Main Street in Reedsburg. In total, Missoula Mac owns and operates 42 McDonald’s restaurants in Wisconsin.
The EEOC sued after first trying to reach a voluntary settlement out of court through its conciliation process. The agency seeks lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages for the women who were harassed, retaliated against, or both, and injunctive relief to end the discriminatory practices. The suit, captioned EEOC v. Missoula Mac, Inc., d/b/a McDonald’s Restaurant (Civil Action No. 3:11-cv-00267), was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in Madison. The case will be litigated primarily by attorneys in the EEOC’s Milwaukee Area Office.
John Hendrickson, EEOC regional attorney for the Chicago District said, “McDonald’s is one of the most well-known brands in America and the world, and its image is one of complete reliability, good taste and wholesomeness. What we found was allegedly going on at the McDonald’s in Reedsburg was something completely different and illegal. This litigation is going to put the Reedsburg McDonald’s under a well-deserved microscope, and, if the allegations are borne out, assure that appropriate relief is provided to the victims and that the harassment is brought to a halt.”
The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.