May 22 (UPI) -- Ten McDonald's employees are suing the restaurant chain, saying they were groped, propositioned for sex and subject to indecent exposure while at work.
The female workers say they reported the harassment but managers ignored their complaints, In some cases, the charges say, they faced retaliation and were either fired or received reduced work hours.
Fight for $15, an advocacy group for raising pay for minimum wage workers, organized the litigation. Advocacy groups, including the National Women's Law Center, are also involved in the case -- and the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund, an umbrella of the NWLC that started in the wake of the #MeToo movement, is paying for the complaints.
McDonald's restaurants named in the complaints are located in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Orlando, Fla., Durham, N.C., Kansas City and St. Louis.
One of the workers, a 15-year-old St. Louis cashier, said an older male employee made offensive remarks about her "nice body" and other sexual remarks. When she reported it to a manager, she was told, "you will never win that battle," according to information provided to UPI by the NWLC.
Another worker in Chicago said her manager asked if she wanted to see his penis. When she reported the incident, she was fired, documents say. A New Orleans worker said she eventually gave up reporting harassment to her manager because her complaint wasn't taken seriously.
"Sexual harassment is pervasive across the fast food industry, where over a million workers-especially women of color -- face abuse as a routine part of their job," said NWLC President Fatima Goss Graves. "This sort of harassment puts working people in a no-win situation -- forced to choose between a paycheck and speaking up about the abuse."
TIME'S UP Director Sharyn Tejani said she hopes funding the charges will ensure charges and lead to significant change for harassment in the workplace.
"Few women working in low-wage jobs have the means or the financial security to challenge sexual harassment," Tejani said. "As shown by these charges and thousands of intakes we have received ... from women in every industry, those who report their abuse are often fired, demoted, or mocked -- and since nothing is done to stop the harassment, nothing changes."
A spokesperson for McDonald's told UPI in an emailed statement the company "is and have been committed to a culture that fosters the respectful treatment of everyone."
McDonald's owns only about 10 percent of all 14,000 U.S. locations. The rest are franchised by private owners.
"There is no place for harassment and discrimination of any kind in our workplace," spokeswoman Terri Hickey said. "McDonald's Corporation takes allegations of sexual harassment very seriously and are confident our independent franchisees ... will do the same."