Court Certifies Class of Almost 100 Sexual Harassment Survivors Seeking Justice From McDonald’s Restaurant Where They Worked

On December 29, 2021, the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan certified a class of 95 women who allege they all suffered sexual harassment at the hands of the same manager while employed at a franchised McDonald’s restaurant.  The lawsuit, Ries v. McDonald’s, alleges a years-long pattern of unchecked sexual harassment at the McDonald’s restaurant, including near-constant physical and verbal harassment that three General Managers witnessed on multiple occasions.  Despite observing an unrelenting stream of sexual harassment by one of their managers and receiving multiple verbal complaints from employees, the General Managers and their superiors did not take action to end the harassment and protect their employees.  The members of the class range in age and include many women who were in high school during the time they worked at the McDonald’s restaurant, with some class members who were as young as 16 when they were harassed.

The Court found that “[g]iven the consistency, frequency, severity, and visibility of [the manager’s] conduct according to Plaintiffs’ evidence, there is sufficient overlap between the class members’ experiences to render the existence of an objectively hostile work environment one that can be resolved on a class-wide basis.”  The Court observed, “The class members worked in the same restaurant, in the same confined space, and experienced direct or indirect harassment by the same individual whose conduct was apparently consistent and unrelenting over an extended period of time,” and continued, “Defendants were consistent in their response to [the manager’s] behavior.  They apparently did almost nothing about it until March 2019.”

The Court’s certification of the class in Ries represents an enormous victory for the class members, as many would have financial difficulty pursuing individual claims against the McDonald’s restaurant.  The decision also shows the power of women’s collective voices in speaking out against harassment.  The  court’s ruling means that all 95 women may proceed together to trial against the McDonald’s franchise.

The Court appointed Altshuler Berzon LLP as Class Counsel, along with co-counsel from the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and McKnight, Canzano, Smith, Radtke & Brault P.C.

A copy of the Court’s order granting class certification can be found here.

Altshuler Berzon LLP Files Union Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court Supporting Stay of Injunction Against CMS Healthcare Industry Vaccination Regulation

On Wednesday, December 22, 2021, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) filed amicus curiae briefs in two cases in the United States Supreme Court: Biden v. Missouri, No. 21A240, and Becerra v. Louisiana, No. 21A241. In these cases, two district courts issued injunctions preventing the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from enforcing a new regulation requiring the staff of all healthcare providers participating in Medicare or Medicaid to be vaccinated against Covid-19. The federal government has asked the Supreme Court to stay these injunctions pending appeal, and SEIU, AFT, and AFSCME support the federal government’s stay applications. As the Unions argue, under-vaccination poses severe risks to healthcare workers as well as patients, and CMS’s rule is critical for ensuring that healthcare facilities like hospitals and nursing homes can function safely and effectively in the face of an ongoing pandemic. The Unions’ briefs highlight the stories of two SEIU members who work in nursing homes on the frontlines of the fight against Covid-19 and have seen the need for staff vaccination firsthand. The Unions’ briefs also demonstrate that, contrary to the conclusion reached by the lower courts, CMS has clear statutory authority to issue the regulation, which is a straightforward health and safety standard for the Medicare and Medicaid programs and does not implicate the Supreme Court’s “major questions” precedents.

The amicus briefs can be found here and here.

Altshuler Berzon LLP is counsel of record for the Unions as amici curiae.