Two women in Sanford, Florida have filed a $500 million class-action lawsuit against McDonald’s, the world’s second-largest private employer. The lawsuit alleges that the fast-food giant has cultivated a “systematic sexual harassment problem” dating back to 2016.

The two women filed the suit on behalf of 5,000 other women who worked at one of the 100 McDonald’s locations in Florida and experienced harassment on the job. The two women named claim that they faced physical assault, verbal abuse, groping and sexually charged comments from their male coworkers.

What’s more, is both women reported the harassment to their managers, who didn’t take appropriate action. In fact, according to the complaint, McDonald’s gave both of the women fewer hours after reporting the behavior. The restaurant chain also eventually fired one of the women as a result.

A culture of harassment

In the past three years, McDonald’s workers have filed more than 50 sexual harassment complaints against the company. According to a 2016 survey from Hart Research, 40% of women working in the fast-food industry have experienced sexual harassment on the job.

The women filing the lawsuit have joined forces with the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund. Founded in 2018, Time’s Up emerged during the rise of the #MeToo movement, which shed a light on the rampant culture of workplace harassment and exposed powerful abusers such as Harvey Weinstein.

In an open letter from Time’s Up, they called upon McDonald’s to improve their sexual harassment training and ensure that there is a lawful process for both reporting abuse and preventing retaliation. In a statement, McDonald’s has addressed the issue by rolling out a new anti-harassment training program to its restaurants.

Discrimination in the workplace

Under federal laws, sexual harassment in the workplace is an illegal form discrimination. It is also illegal for an employer to retaliate or discriminate against the person who filed the harassment charge.

Employers have a legal obligation to ensure that all of their employees are safe from harassment and bias at work. While sexual harassment in the workplace is alarmingly pervasive, the #MeToo era and organizations like Time’s Up are helping to ensure workplace harassers are held accountable.