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Judge approves $1.5 million settlement over sexual harassment at Mason McDonald's franchisee

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A federal judge in Michigan approved a $1.5 million settlement this week over sexual harassment at an Ingham County McDonald’s franchisee.

The lawsuit was filed in 2019 by former employee Jenna Ries against McDonald’s and the franchisee in Mason. In 2021, about 100 other women and young girls were also included in the suit as a class, which they won in April of this year.

Though the lawsuit was filed against both the franchisee and McDonald’s, the corporation was released from liability after claiming that they can’t be held responsible for things that happen at their franchises, according to attorney Darcie Brault who represented the employees.

Ries alleged the manager called her derogatory names and frequently grabbed private areas of her body.

On Tuesday, Western District of Michigan Chief Judge Hala Y. Jarbou approved the settlement.

Brault said McDonald’s and fast-food restaurants in general have an issue with young women facing sexual harassment on the job.

“At one point [McDonald’s] did say they would change their policies, and that they were going to roll out global brand standards that would address in an effective way the sexual harassment problem that persisted in their corporate stores as well as their franchise stores,” she said. “As far we know they have not done that."

According to Brault, the amount each victim receives depends on a point system that scores the amount and type of harassment they encountered.

“For example, how many shifts that she worked with the perpetrator, whether she claims she was touched by him, whether shes claims that she was subjected to sexually hostile behaviors or words,” Brault said.

Of the class included in the lawsuit, Brault said 51 made valid claims. She adds most class action lawsuits see a return rate of 20-30%, this case saw a 50% return rate.

Brault said shes hopes the success of this suit inspires others to come forward if they’ve experienced sexual harassment while on the job.

“Times have changed a lot, in the past few years even, and if you’ve had something like this happen to you don’t be afraid to come forward,” she said. “Somebody will listen to you and justice can be done.”

Melorie Begay is WKAR-FM's weekend host and a general assignment reporter.
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