McDonald’s workers marching in Los Angeles in September 2018 as part of a multi-state strike seeking to combat sexual harassment in the workplace.
For the third time in three years, McDonald’s Corp. is facing allegations of rampant sexual harassment of female employees by male coworkers and managers.
Twenty-three new complaints against McDonald’s — 20 of which were filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — were announced Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union, the labor group Fight for $15, and the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund. Three of the complaints were filed as civil rights lawsuits, and two suits stemmed from previous allegations.
The complaints of gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment of low-wage workers include inappropriate touching, indecent exposure, lewd comments and requests for sex, as well as retaliation for reporting such conduct. The incidents are alleged to have occurred at corporate and franchise stores in 20 cities.
“It’s a brutal reality across the fast food industry that at least one in four workers — especially women of color working low-wage jobs — experience sexual harassment as a routine part of their job,” said Sharyn Tejani, director of the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, in a statement. “Every day, workers are forced to choose between getting a paycheck or speaking up about their abuse. When they report harassment, workers are often fired or have their shifts cut — and since nothing is done to stop it, the scourge continues.”
In one complaint, Jamelia Fairley, an employee in Sanford, Fla., alleges that she was sexually harassed over a period of several months, including hearing sexual comments about her 1-year-old daughter. Fairley alleges that after she reported the incidents her work hours were reduced. Her complaint is partially redacted in order to conceal the identities of her alleged assailants and the managers to whom she reported the incidents.
A spokeswoman for McDonald’s declined to comment on the EEOC filings. But the company’s CEO Steve Easterbrook said in a May 19, 2019, letter that “McDonald’s is committed to ensuring a harassment and bias-free workplace.”
“By strengthening our overall policy, creating interactive training, a third-party managed anonymous hotline and importantly, listening to employees across the system, McDonald’s is sending a clear message that we are committed to creating and sustaining a culture of trust where employees feel safe, valued and respected,” Easterbrook wrote. He said that posters defining the company’s anti-harassment policy have been sent “to all 14,000 restaurants in the McDonald’s system.”
Easterbrook’s letter was addressed to author and actress Padma Lakshmi, who attended a rally in support of the complainants in front of McDonald’s headquarters in Chicago on Tuesday.
Critics say the fast-food giant has made promises of reforms before. The EEOC filings are “the third and largest round of EEOC complaints that workers have filed against McDonald’s in the last three years,” according to The New York Times.
In September 2018, McDonald’s employees staged a one-day strike in 10 cities to protest sexual harassment in the workplace.
Sexual harassment in the restaurant industry is common, according to a 2016 survey that found that 40% of female fast food workers said they felt forced to accept that behavior or risk losing their jobs.
The vast majority of those who experience sexual harassment — an estimated 87% to 94% — never file a formal legal complaint, according to a study by the National Women’s Law Center. Despite that, in 2016, nearly 7,000 sexual harassment complaints were filed with the EEOC.
Advocates say they hope the complaints brought against McDonald’s, one of the most globally recognized brands, will “be a catalyst for significant change.”
A mail carrier for the United States Postal Service makes deliveries at a Florida apartment complex in June 2018. The USPS has partnered with TuSimple to launch a multi-state driverless semi-truck test program on Tuesday. It doesn’t involve home deliveries.
The U.S. Postal Service is experimenting with self-driving trucks to move mail across state lines.
The USPS has partnered with San Diego-based TuSimple on a two-week pilot program, focusing solely on a 1,000-mile route between Dallas and Phoenix.
TuSimple’s Chief Product Officer Chuck Price told NPR the test runs, which began on Tuesday, will help the Postal Service “become future-ready.” The aim of the program, according to the Postal Service, is “to accommodate a diverse mail mix, enhance safety, improve service, reduce emissions, and produce operational savings.”
It will involve five round trips, traveling major interstates that cross Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Each truck will have a “safety engineer” and driver on board for the duration of the pilot to monitor vehicle performance and to ensure public safety.
The Postal Service usually contracts out such long-haul trips, which involve large freight trailers carrying thousands of pieces of mail, as opposed to the small trucks making door-to-door deliveries.
Having humans in the driver seat — actually doing the driving — on long-distance routes like the one being tested is challenging “because it’s 22 hours in one direction, requires teams of drivers and it’s very hard to recruit drivers into this kind of run,” Price said.
The pilot marks TuSimple’s debut run into Texas. The commercial freight moving company has been operating autonomous vehicles primarily in Arizona since 2018.
The Postal Service also has ideas for using self-driving vehicles for home delivery, perhaps using vehicles that follow behind a mail carrier who walks a route.
It is unclear how much the pilot program will cost, but the Postal Service stressed it does not receive tax dollars for operating expenses.
The New York Assembly passed a bill on Tuesday that closes the so-called “double jeopardy” loophole, permitting state authorities to prosecute someone who receives a pardon from the president. The vote was 90-52.
Top Democrats in the state framed the change as a way to stand up to President Trump by removing a shield that had protected defendants from being prosecuted twice for similar crimes, and could have benefited those receiving pardons.
“Right now the president’s threatened use of the pardon power is very troubling. It would be done to undermine an investigation to help out friends and family members,” state Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor and the bill‘s sponsor, told NPR.
The New York Senate passed its version of the bill earlier this month. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised to sign it.
The legal concept against double jeopardy says prosecutors cannot charge and convict someone for the same criminal act twice. But it kicks in only after a jury is convened or when a defendant enters a plea.
Under the change, if someone is granted a presidential pardon for a federal crime, New York authorities will be allowed to bring a case related to the same behavior.
“Every day we wait gives the opportunity for the president to undermine the rule of law without New York having the recourse to take action,” Kaminsky said.
Andy Goodell, a Republican assemblyman, said the bill is tantamount to “a poke in the eye” to Trump.
On the Assembly floor, Goodell said with the double jeopardy loophole closed, what prevents federal prosecutors from charging defendants who received state-level pardons from Gov. Cuomo?
“Isn’t this opening Pandora’s Box?” Goodell said. “This is a two-way street.”
Important to Trump’s inner cycle is that the bill is not retroactive. The law would not apply to anyone who has been tried already or entered a plea – like former chairman of the Trump campaign Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney. They already have protection from further prosecution for the same behavior. Both are now serving federal prison sentences.
Trump has not pardoned any of his associates caught up in the Russia investigation, though he has dangled the possibility.
Other individuals, however, have received pardons from Trump, including Joe Arpaio, the diehard Trump supporter and former Arizona sheriff; Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative commentator; and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a onetime chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.
While presidents have broad constitutional power to issue pardons for federal offenses, presidential pardons to not apply to state crimes, and New York Democrats say the bill is a bulwark against what they see as the possibility of an abuse of executive power, be it by Trump or any American president.
“We never thought we would have to worry about a state being involved in the review of presidential power,” said Democratic Assembly member Joseph Lentol. “It doesn’t have anything to do with this president. It has to do with presidential power, period.”
Rashema Melson gets a hug and has her photo taken with her cousin Anthony Young after the 2019 Georgetown University graduation ceremony.
Robb Hill for The Washington Post/Getty Images
Robb Hill for The Washington Post/Getty Images
Rashema Melson was among the more than 1,750 undergraduates who received diplomas from Georgetown University last weekend.
Before she attended college on a full scholarship, Melson graduated at the top of her class as the valedictorian of Anacostia High School in Washington, D.C.
She was also living with her mother and brothers at D.C. General, a family homeless shelter that shut down last year.
Now, five years after she started college, 23-year-old Melson has graduated with a degree in justice and peace studies. She plans to return to her community to work for a few years before attending law school.
“I don’t want to just be someone who makes a lot of money and donates,” she says. “I want to get in there and actually do something. I want to mentor. I want to change laws. I want to do something that’s really going to make an impact.”
On her first few years at Georgetown
I worked at the financial aid office for the first three years. For the first two years, I was very sheltered, and I didn’t go out a lot, at all actually. I even avoided the dining hall. … I felt that I’ve come to Georgetown to get a degree, and there was a lot of pressure on me from a lot of people to do great, and it kind of boxed me in, and I kind of mentally let it get to me.
On how she responded to the pressure to succeed
I did the cowardly thing, and I left Georgetown. I was getting married at the time. But in my head it was a way for me to escape all of the pressure and expectations. And while I was [at a military base where she lived with her husband], I realized that I had way more talent and ambition and so many other things to accomplish that I couldn’t settle for less. And so I decided to get up and come back.
On the decision to return to Georgetown
Coming back was amazing. Deciding to come back was amazing, because then I knew what I was really set out to do. I was ready to execute and conquer any challenge that stood in my way.
On how the rest of her family is doing
My mom is in an apartment. My brother just finished his first year at Syracuse University [on a football scholarship]. … I think that him seeing me being the first one in our nuclear family to actually graduate from college lets him know that he can do anything.
On what she hopes to accomplish in the future
While at Georgetown and while seeing the opportunity that I had that others don’t have from where I come from, I really want to make a difference. …
I want to pour love into our system. I want to let people know that they matter, and I don’t think that’s happening enough, which is why we tend to give up on ourselves. But soon, all the statistics about us will be changing for the better.
Natalie Brennan produced and Dave Blanchard edited this story for broadcast. Maureen Pao adapted it for the Web.