As Pride month comes to a close, a disheartening story unfolds. McDonald’s is no stranger to lawsuits, and they are once again on the receiving end of one. A woman has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the fast food mogul, and the complaint is for lack of a better word, disturbing.
La’Ray Reed was hired in April 2015 as a crew member at a McDonald’s franchise in Redford, Michigan. She states that almost immediately after starting work there, she began to experience sexual harassment from her co-workers and manager. Reed happens to be transgender, and this played a large part in the ensuing harassment.
Very early on in her employment, she states that she received questions and comments from the other employees such as whether she was a “boy or a girl”, whether she was “top or bottom”, and what her “role in the bedroom was”. The sexual harassment continued and the comments became more graphic. She states she was asked, “How big is it?” and people started “talking about having sex with her”.
One of the more bizarre occurrences came in June 2015, when Reed states she was spied on in the women’s restroom. As soon as she exited, she was told by one of the managers to clean out a filthy bathroom in the back of the building which had been used as a broom closet. Reed complied with the request, but then began questioning why she was the only one cleaning such a room out. Typically, employees shared cleaning duties. She was then informed that she was cleaning out the restroom because from now on, that was the only restroom she would be allowed to use.
Perhaps one of the most shocking incidents occurred in late July or August 2015. Reed states she was working the drive-thru position, when a voice came over the headset she was wearing. It was one of her three managers, who said, “You can’t feel it from the front, you have to feel it from the back” for all of the employees to hear. Perplexed, Reed states she then felt another co-worker reach through her legs from behind and grab her genitals. Reed described the incident as “traumatizing”.
Incidents singling out Reed continued. She states one of the managers by the name of Denise would use derogatory terms towards her, such as calling her “boy slash girl”. Reed also mentioned that when the workplace was overstaffed, she would be the one chosen to go home, despite other employees offering to leave and Reed requesting to stay.
Finally, Reed couldn’t take it anymore. She attempted to make a complaint to the corporate manager of the franchise when he was paying a visit to their store. She approached him while he was sitting in his car in the store’s parking lot. She states he appeared “impatient” and said he would follow up and meet with her another time. This never happened.
Reed then attempted to complain directly to the owner of the franchise, Jon Campbell (a named defendant in the suit). Reed gave him a call, and states that he “seemed annoyed”. He told her that he would have one of her managers Noelle call her to discuss the situation, but this did not occur. Reed called him a second time, and in this instance was immediately patched into a three way conversation between Campbell and manager Noelle. In this conversation, Noelle stated that she thought “everything was fine”, and shut down Reed’s complaints.
After the phone call took place, Reed was immediately removed from the work schedule. She called in to the store to receive the following week’s schedule, as employees typically do, and was told that she would have to physically come into the store to get this information. Upon coming in to the store, she found that her scheduled dates of work had been crossed out. Noelle then explained that she had been removed because she was “in trouble”, and advised her to call the other manager Denise. When Reed complied and called Denise, she was notified that she had been terminated. The reason being that she allegedly had three “no call no shows”. Reed immediately questioned the basis of this and demanded proof, but Denise refused to discuss it. She only told Reed to come pick up her final check.
You would think the harassment would end there, with the termination of an employee. Disappointingly, this isn’t the case. Reed went to pick up her final check at the store, and was confronted by another manager, Sheena. According to Reed, she said, “You don’t think I know what you are because of how you dress and look?” The meeting continued its hostile nature, as Reed was told by Denise that in order to receive her final paycheck, she had to sign two forms. In order to get her final pay, Reed complied. It was then that she was handed her final paycheck – for a whopping sixteen cents.
Reed has since obtained representation for a case alleging sexual harassment and discrimination on the basis of sex. She states that the ordeal affected her emotionally and mentally, even leading her to consider suicide. “There were days when I thought everything would be so much easier if I killed myself”.
The restaurant owner and operator, Jon Campbell, commented to Teen Vogue, “We work hard every day to treat our employees and customers with dignity and respect, and discrimination of any kind has no place at our restaurant. As this is a legal matter, I do not intend to comment further at this time.”