Time's Up backs sexual harassment claims against McDonald's, Walmart
- The Time's Up Legal Defense Fund is backing several claims in the retail and food industries, according to recent media reports. Ten female McDonald’s employees have filed a sexual harassment complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Associated Press (AP) reported, supported by the fund and Fight for $15. And in retail, Time's Up connected a Gina Pitre, a former Walmart employee, with a lawyer to pursue her own sexual harassment case against the company, The New York Times reported.
- The women at McDonald's said they were subjected to unwanted sexual advances, indecent exposure, lewd comments and ridicule, mockery and retaliation for taking their complaints to management. The women, including a 15-year-old from St. Louis, worked at various franchises across the country. The suit is the second sexual harassment claim backed by Fight for $15 against the fast-food chain in two years. In an email to the AP, McDonald's spokeswoman Terri Hickey said there’s "no place for harassment and discrimination of any kind" in the workplace and that McDonald’s and its independent franchises take sexual harassment allegations very seriously.
- In the Walmart case, Pitre alleged that her manager touched her inappropriately and made lewd comments. Time's Up connected her with Our Walmart, an advocacy group for Walmart workers, and the National Women's Law Center. In a statement provided to The Times, Walmart said it conducted a "comprehensive investigation" into her complaints and "could not substantiate a violation of our Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy."
Time's Up, founded in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein investigation, is still fairly new, but it could be a group to watch.
And while the related #MeToo movement may be spurring more employees to speak up about harassment, some say it may have suffered a blow earlier this week. The U.S. Supreme Court's approval of class action waivers in arbitration agreements has raised concern among labor organizations, employee groups and civil rights advocates that it will have a detrimental effect on the results of #MeToo. The ruling allows employers to, as a condition of employment, require that employees sign arbitration agreements waiving their right to pursue claims collectively.
In the meantime, proactive employers are responding to #MeToo with new policies and procedures, as well as improved training, especially for managers, who need to know how to handle complaints. Leadership won't be aware of every infraction taking place within the ranks, but employers have a responsibility to follow up on all complaints, Jonathan Segal, partner at Duane Morris, told HR Dive in an earlier interview. Even if investigations don't result in any disciplinary action, the employer has taken the claim seriously, and hopefully avoided allegations of retaliation.
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