(Washington, D.C.) Today, Florida McDonald’s workers announced they have filed a $500 million class action lawsuit seeking to force the company to address a “systemic sexual harassment problem” in its more than 100 corporate owned and operated restaurants across the state. The class action suit was filed with support from the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, which is housed and administered by the National Women’s Law Center Fund.

The suit, filed in federal court in Illinois, aims to address the widespread harassment in corporate owned and operated McDonald’s restaurants across Florida, which has the largest concentration of stores run by the corporation in the nation. It focuses on a restaurant near Orlando and claims extensive illegal harassment that went ignored by management—including groping and physical assaults— is “emblematic of McDonald’s systematic sexual harassment problem.”

The two named plaintiffs in the suit, 24-year-old McDonald’s worker, Jamelia Fairley, and 28-year-old former McDonald’s worker, Ashley Reddick, filed charges last May with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and recently received “right-to-sue” letters from the Commission. Due to statute of limitations issues, the suit had to be filed even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic or the workers would have lost their right to sue.

The class action suit was filed by Fairley and Reddick on behalf of themselves and a class estimated to include approximately 5,000 women who worked at more than 100 corporate-run McDonald’s restaurants across Florida since April 10, 2016.

The following is a statement by Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC):

“Horrifying experiences of sexual harassment are unfortunately a routine part of the job for at least one in four low-paid workers in the fast food industry. These workers have few options to fight their harassment and if left unchecked, this behavior will only get worse amidst the conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic. During this crisis workers in the service sector—especially women of color—are desperately trying to hold on to their jobs as they watch millions of people across the country suddenly lose theirs. As the economy collapses, there is every reason to believe that workers will be more hesitant to blow the whistle on their harassers—and, so far, McDonald’s has failed to protect its employees from facing such extreme risk. McDonald’s, now is the time to fully support your workers and create a workplace that’s free from abuse, assault, and discrimination.”

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