Fired McDonald’s Employees Say They Were Told “Too Many Black People” Working There

A new federal lawsuit filed against McDonald’s and a franchisee for the eatery alleges that more than a dozen black employees were fired simultaneously because they supposedly did not fit into the color palette desired by their employer.

The complaint [PDF], filed this morning in a U.S. District Court in Virginia by 10 former McDonald’s workers, claims that the plaintiffs — all members of minority ethnic groups — “were subjected to rampant racial and sexual harassment” from senior members of staff.

Among the statements allegedly made by supervisors: that “there are too many black people in the store,” the use of terms like “bitch,” “ghetto,” and “ratchet” to describe African-American employees, and the labeling of an Hispanic worker as a “dirty Mexican.”

The suit also claims that the plaintiffs were penalized for rule infractions while white employees were not.

In terms of sexual harassment, the plaintiffs say that managers “inappropriately touched female employees on their legs and buttocks; sent female employees sexual pictures; and solicited sexual relations from female employees.”

The allegations all involve McDonald’s restaurants in the Virginia towns of South Boston and Clarksville, all owned by the same franchisee.

According to the complaint, that franchisee took over the restaurants in late 2013, and at the time, most of the employees were African-American.

Plaintiffs say that the new owner then “implemented a plan to reduce the number of African-American employees and hire more white employees,” allegedly telling workers that “the ratio was off in each of the stores,” and that he wanted “the ratio to be equal.”

Supervisors from the franchisee were less polite, according to the complaint, supposedly telling employees that it was “too dark” at these McDonald’s and that there was a “need to get the ghetto out of the store.”

One of the more startling allegations claims that one supervisor told another, “now we can get rid of the ni**ers and the Mexicans.”

In March 2014, say the plaintiffs, the franchisee hired a large number of white workers. On a single day in mid-May of that year, 15 black employees — including nine of the plaintiffs — were dismissed.

Plaintiffs claim they asked for an explanation for why they were being fired. According to the complaint, they were told they were good workers but they “didn’t fit the profile” desired by ownership.

“Following the training instructions given by McDonald’s Corporate, several of the plaintiffs called McDonald’s Corporate to complain about their terminations and the blatant racial discrimination,” reads the lawsuit. “McDonald’s Corporate, however, did nothing.”

“We asked McDonald’s corporate to help us get our jobs back, but the company told us to take our concerns to the franchisee – the same franchisee that just fired us,” one plaintiff says in a statement about the lawsuit. “McDonald’s closely monitors everything we do, from the speed of the drive-through line, to the way we smile and fold customers’ bags – but when we try to tell the company that we’re facing discrimination, they ignore us and say that it’s not their problem.”

Consumerist reached out to McDonald’s for comment on the suit. And even though we forwarded a copy of the complaint along with our request, a rep for the company said, “We have not seen the lawsuit, and cannot comment on its allegations, but will review the matter carefully.”

“McDonald’s has a long-standing history of embracing the diversity of employees, independent Franchisees, customers and suppliers, and discrimination is completely inconsistent with our values,” continues the statement from the fast food company. “McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators share a commitment to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald’s restaurants.”

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.