In 2016, when she was 16, Brittany Hoyos started her first job, at a busy McDonald’s in Tucson. Not long after, she said, a manager began harassing her, touching her hair, texting her about her appearance and once making a move to kiss her after offering her a ride home.
Ms. Hoyos rebuffed him, and her parents alerted her supervisors. She was then subjected to retaliation at work, she said, including a demotion from her position as crew trainer. She said the retaliation extended to her mother, who also worked in the restaurant; eventually both were left unemployed. Ms. Hoyos blamed herself.
With 1.9 million workers in more than 100 countries, McDonald’s is one of the world’s largest companies and most recognizable brands. Now the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, formed last year to extend the muscle of the #MeToo movement beyond Hollywood, has taken aim at sexual harassment on the fast food chain’s assembly lines.
On Tuesday the fund, the American Civil Liberties Union and the labor group Fight for $15 announced the filing of 23 new complaints against McDonald’s — 20 sent to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; three filed as civil rights lawsuits; and two suits stemming from previous allegations.
In the filings, workers including Ms. Hoyos and her mother accuse McDonald’s of gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment in the workplace and retaliation for speaking up. It is the third and largest round of E.E.O.C. complaints that workers have filed against McDonald’s in the last three years.
The cases represent just a sampling of complaints labor advocates said they have received about the chain, but the company’s dominant role in the economy makes the campaign a major test of the legal and labor power of the #MeToo movement. The $25 million legal defense fund, housed at the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, has received almost 5,000 requests for assistance since it was created in the fallout of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. A majority of those appeals came from low-wage workers, and the fund has given the most money to the McDonald’s cases, said Sharyn Tejani, director of the fund.
“What we’re seeing over and over again in these claims — for these workers, they’re put in a position where you have to put up with the harassment, or you lose the paycheck that’s keeping you in a house or keeping groceries on your table,” Ms. Tejani said.