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.