Vanessa Harris and Kimberly Mealer, two African American former McDonald’s employees in a Queens, NY location, have filed a suit alleging that the company refused to address their allegations that a supervisor sexually harassed them and made disgusting, racist comments.
The two former assistant managers claim that their white supervisor, Michael Lauria, frequently called his employees fun things like “n*gger” and “my n*gger,” regularly remarking that “You n*ggers need to get it together.”
According to the lawsuit, “On several occasions, Mr. Lauria commented ‘It’s hotter than Africa in here.'” Lauria said the restaurant was busy at the beginning of the month because black customers “received their welfare checks,” the suit alleges.
“On another occasion when Mr. Lauria was driving Ms. Harris to another McDonald’s location, he asked Ms. Harris what exit to take. When Ms. Harris answered that the exit was N19, Mr. Lauria responded by saying that the ‘N’ was for ‘N—–ville,’” the former employees claim.
The two former employees say that Lauria frequently made sexist “jokes,” as well. “Have I told you the one about my penis? Oh, never mind, it’s too long.” The sexist attempts at humor occurred at least once a week, with frequent references to Lauria’s penis. “‘Do you know why they call me Big Mike?’ about which Mr. Lauria was referring to his penis because he would simultaneously thrust his pelvis into the air each time he made this comment,” the suit claims “Big Mike” said routinely.
On top of the racism and sexism, the women say Lauria would grope them as he passed by them in tight spaces. They claim to have addressed the situation with Human Resources, but say nothing was done.
“McDonald’s is one of the most sophisticated corporations and these women thought the corporation had their backs,” said lawyer James Vagnini.“Instead, this was a case of sweeping the allegations under the rug.”
Vagnini says the women have kept inappropriate texts and inappropriate videos Lauria sent to them, including a cartoon of a white man spraying black children with a hose, though Lauria told the company that he did not use racial epithets and called the videos “jokes” that had been e-mailed to him.
Lauria is not a defendant in the case, and no longer works for McDonald’s. However, a representative for the company said in a statement, “At McDonald’s, we respect and value everyone. We have a have strict policy prohibiting harassment and discrimination of any kind in our restaurants. We strongly deny the allegations in the suit and will defend vigorously.”
This is the unfortunate reality with which many employees are forced to deal, on top of their abysmally low wages, wage theft, and the now-defunct web site that offered employees “helpful” suggestions on how to overcome the economic situation McDonald’s helped create for them–including a “budget” that accidentally proved that people can not survive on the wages the company pays.