Fired workers from US McDonald's sue, alleging racial discrimination, sexual harassment

A group of former McDonald's workers is suing the fast-food giant in the United States for alleged racial discrimination and sexual harassment. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 
A group of former McDonald's workers is suing the fast-food giant in the United States for alleged racial discrimination and sexual harassment. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

NEW YORK (AFP) - A group of former McDonald's workers is suing the fast-food giant in the United States for alleged racial discrimination and sexual harassment after they were fired from restaurants in Virginia.

According to the civil rights complaint filed on Thursday, workers at franchised restaurants in the southern state of Virginia were "subjected to rampant racial and sexual harassment, committed by the restaurants' highest-ranking supervisors". Supervisors repeatedly complained "there are too many black people in the store", the lawsuit alleges.

The plaintiffs, nine of whom are black and one Hispanic, allege they were fired because the restaurant, operated by a company called Soweva, wanted to "reduce the number of African-American employees and hire more white employees", the lawsuit states. "Soweva's supervisors were blunt, telling employees that it was 'too dark' in the restaurants, and that they were going to hire different workers because they 'need to get the ghetto out of the store,'" the complaint adds.

The fired workers go on to claim that supervisors inappropriately touched female employees, sent female employees sexual pictures, and solicited sexual relations from them.

The plaintiffs seek unspecified punitive damages.

McDonald's did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

The lawsuit potentially has broad implications because it contends that McDonald’s is responsible for the well-being of workers at all its restaurants, even if they are franchises.