McDonald’s to pay former workers — teens — $505K settlement over sexual harassment

EEOC Says Male Supervisor Requested Sexual Favors, Groped Female Workers A Durango, Colo.-based McDonald’s restaurant franchise will pay $505,000 and provide significant remedial relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of a class of young female employees, including teens, the agency announced today.

The EEOC’s suit, Civil Action No. 06-cv-01871-MSK-CBS, was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado against JOBEC, Inc., a management company, and the interrelated corporations Colorado Hamburger Company, Inc. and Farmington Hamburger Company, Inc., who operate McDonald’s franchises in Durango and Cortez, Colo., and Farmington and Aztec, N.M.

The Commission’s suit alleged that Tiawna Shenefield, now known as Tiawna Jacobson, Brandi Michal and a class of females, many of whom were 15 to 17 years old, were subjected to egregious sexual harassment in the workplace by their male supervisor. The harassment allegedly included the supervisor biting the breasts and grabbing the buttocks of the class members, making numerous sexual comments, as well as offers of favors in exchange for sex. Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“The EEOC will vigorously prosecute claims of harassment, especially cases involving teenagers, many of whom are in the workplace for the first time,” said Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Phoenix, Denver and Albuquerque offices.

Under the terms of the consent decree resolving the case, the defendants will pay the two named victims and their attorney, Lynne Sholler, of Durango a total of $450,000 for compensatory damages and attorney fees. An additional $55,000 will be distributed to two other class members represented by the EEOC.

The decree also provides for significant non-monetary relief, including letters of apology to the victims; training on sex discrimination in the defendants’ Colorado and New Mexico facilities; posting notices of non-discrimination in all of the defendants’ workplaces; and an injunction prohibiting discrimination and retaliation.

Chester V. Bailey, district director of the EEOC’s Phoenix office, added, “Employers must recognize their responsibility to assure that young workers — one of the most vulnerable segments of the labor force – are not harassed at work. That’s why the Commission has a national initiative to address this important issue.”

Attorney Lynne Sholler, who represented two of the alleged victims, said, “My clients and I are glad to have this case finally resolved. I am particularly pleased that this employer will be required to put in place training and procedures to prevent and address workplace harassment.”

In September 2004, EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp (then vice chair) launched the federal agency’s national Youth@Work Initiative — a comprehensive outreach and education campaign designed to inform teens about their employment rights and responsibilities and to help employers create positive first work experiences for young adults. The EEOC has held more than 3,400 Youth@Work events nationwide since the program was launched, reaching more than 212,000 students, education professionals, and employers.