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Three Lessons from the EEOC for Fast Food Franchise Owners

Getting to become a franchise owner is a long and difficult process, involving training, traveling, and tremendous amount of capital. Given the high stakes involved, it is therefore valuable to know what to do with respect to your employees when you finally do have your fast food franchise.

Thankfully, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is out there to provide guidance to fast food franchises. Some of the lessons you should take away can be found in three recent lawsuits that the EEOC brought against a McDonald’s, a Burger King, and a Wendy’s.

McDonald’s:

In the case of the golden arches, the EEOC sued McDonald’s franchises in Arizona and New Mexico. In the case of the Arizona franchise, the EEOC alleged that young female workers were grabbed and sexually harassed by an assistant manager. Other violations included pushing the female workers against a wall while rubbing their shoulders, putting hands in their pockets, and violating their space. Meanwhile, in the case of the New Mexico McDonald’s franchise, the problem was also sexual harassment, but in this case it was same-sex harassment, where a male supervisor allegedly made unwanted requests for sex and unwelcome sexual advances towards young men.

The alleged conduct in both cases violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex (including sexual harassment or pregnancy) and protects employees who complain about such offenses from retaliation.

There has not yet been a resolution to these cases.

Burger King:

The problematic Burger King franchise was in the Pacific Northwest. Once again the issue was related to sexual harassment. The EEOC alleged that a teenaged crew member was pursued by an older married supervisor, who kept asking about the young worker’s virginity, demanded sex, and asked how much she would charge for sex.

The EEOC came in and obtained $150,000 for the young worker.

As can be seen, sexual harassment is clearly an issue at fast food franchises. Using the employment handbook and judicious supervision, you must prevent any sexual harassment from occurring. And when it does occur, you should not retaliate against the employees.

Wendy’s:

The third lesson about employees at fast food franchises comes from a Wendy’s franchise in Dallas, which has been sued by the EEOC for disability discrimination. In this case, the EEOC alleged that a cook had not been retained because he was hearing-impaired. The complainant had worked as a cook at two previous jobs so clearly he was qualified and only his hearing impairment was at issue. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits disability discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ and applicants’ disabilities as long as this does not pose an undue hardship.

These three cases help any fast food franchise owner to get an idea of what not to do regarding his or her employees. This may take time and training for your managers, but it will be a time and money-saver in the end.

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