What You Should Know About McDonald's Latest Lawsuit

McDonald's was just sued, yet again, by Black employees who accuse the nation's largest fast-food chain of racial discrimination. Black people from all levels of the McDonald's team, from cashiers to franchise-owners to high-level executives, have hit McDonald's with at least four lawsuits this year. They claim McDonald's created a hostile work environment or treated them unfairly because they were Black (via Business Insider). In the latest lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, October 13, three employees at a McDonald's in Rock Island, Illinois, say the restaurant's general manager belittled them because of their race and reduced their hours. The lawsuit claims the manager fired one of the employees, Stephanie Stevens, right after she confronted the manager for speaking to another employee in a "discriminatory and demeaning manner."

"No one should be fired on the job for speaking up against racism," Stevens said (via Quad-City Times). The owner of the Rock Island McDonald's said she was investigating the accusations made in the lawsuit. "Discrimination, harassment, or retaliation of any kind are not tolerated in my restaurants," the franchise-owner said.

The case is similar to a lawsuit filed in Florida earlier this year by three McDonald's employees claiming their restaurant was a "racially hostile work environment." Two of the employees say they were fired after speaking out against the racism in their workplace. McDonald's told Business Insider no one was fired in retaliation for anything having to do with the Florida lawsuit.

McDonald's denies the claims in this year's lawsuits

In a third case from this year, 52 Black former franchisees claimed they were given less economic opportunity than white franchisees, as they were steered toward low-performing, high-cost restaurants in poorer neighborhoods (via NPR). Two Black executives filed yet another lawsuit against McDonald's back in January, claiming racial discrimination, a hostile work environment, and unlawful retaliation (via Business Insider).

McDonald's has said it disagrees with the claims against it, from the two executives and the 52 franchisees. In its defense, McDonald's has said the declining number of Black executives follows the overall trend of fewer people holding executive positions in the company. Regarding the franchisees' lawsuit, McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski said the company's own review of the situation led it to conclude that it had not discriminated against Black restaurant owners as claimed in the suit (via Business Insider). While the number of Black franchise-owners has gone down, so has the number of franchisees overall, Business Insider reported.

The multiple lawsuits claiming racist practices at McDonald's come as the company is trying to show everyone it supports racial justice after the killing of George Floyd by police earlier this year. McDonald's issued a statement on Twitter days after Floyd's death: "We do not tolerate inequity, injustice, or racism. Black lives matter."

Employees question sincerity of the McDonald's 'Black lives matter' statement

McDonald's even put its money where its mouth is, donating $1 million to the NAACP and the National Urban League (via Restaurant Business). Selynda Middlebrook, one of the employees from Illinois who is suing McDonald's, isn't sure the company was being sincere. She was the one Stevens tried to defend, after the manager called her a "waste of space." She also had her hours reduced to just four per week. 

"We are sick and tired of being considered less than human and not even worthy of life, but it wasn't just words. McDonald's cut Black workers' schedules and ultimately my ability to provide food and housing for my baby," Middlebrook said. She added, "When McDonald's says Black lives matter, those words are hollow because if Black lives matter to McDonald's, then as a Black mother I should not have been discriminated against and been told that I shouldn't exist... McDonald's needs to do more than say Black lives matter. McDonald's needs to show us."