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Trans Employee Sues McDonald's For 'Extreme Sexual Harassment,' Discrimination

17/06/2017 17:38 SAST | Updated 17/06/2017 20:08 SAST

A former McDonald’s employee is suing the company and a franchise owner after she says she was sexually harassed and subjected to discrimination on the job because she identifies as transgender. 

In a May 25 lawsuit, La’Ray Reed claims her superiors at a McDonald’s in Redford, Michigan, subjected her to “extreme sexual harassment and disparate treatment.” The 25-year-old, who worked at the franchise full-time between April and August 2015, said she was referred to as a “boy-slash-girl” and relegated to using an unused bathroom that had been serving as a storage closet because she is trans. She also claims her genitals were groped.  

“I am transgender, but I have never dealt with anything like that, especially in the work field,” Reed said in a video released Thursday by the workers’ rights group Fight for $15, which is locked in a legal battle with McDonald’s to improve employee pay and conditions. She noted that her hours were slashed, and she was eventually fired, after she spoke to a manager about the abuse. “They actually took me off the schedule,” she said in the clip, which can be viewed above. “So with that being said, it was even more stressful, even more depressing.” 

Though McDonald’s has a history of supporting the LGBTQ community, several queer advocacy groups said the lawsuit implied that the company’s inclusive efforts may be hypocritical. “McDonald’s can’t pinkwash its record of harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ workers with a fry box and a parade float,” Pride at Work executive director Jerame Davis said in a press release. “It will take a real commitment to equality and better treatment for its workers to address the horrific allegations in these complaints.” 

Reed, who is seeking damages for loss of wages, emotional pain and loss of self-esteem, filed the lawsuit in an effort to “show that trans lives matter,” said attorney Anthony D. Paris of the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice in an email to HuffPost. 

“She wants to stand up for herself and the other employees of a billion dollar industry, to show that it’s not okay to sexually harass and discriminate against the employees who work for you,”wrote Paris, who is representing Reed. “She wants them to know it’s not okay to treat their employees that way, and they can’t get away with it.”

Reed “knows she is not the only person,” he continued. “It’s happened to others and its gone on for too long, so she is standing up for herself and for others.”  

HuffPost has reached out to McDonald’s for comment on the lawsuit. A company spokesperson told the Detroit Free Press, “As a company, we are committed to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald’s restaurants and discrimination of any kind is completely inconsistent with our values.”

“As this is an ongoing legal matter involving an independent owner operator,” the spokesperson continued, “we cannot comment further.” 

Read the full complaint filed by Reed below. 

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