Two Black women have filed lawsuits against the legendary food chain McDonald’s claiming they were the targets of racial discrimination and held from advancing in the corporation, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Victoria Guster-Hines and Domineca Neal, two employees based in Dallas, filed the suit in Chicago federal Court on Tuesday. Guster-Hines and Neal described their time at McDonald’s as a “hostile and abusive work environment,” which made room for threats, racial slurs and low access ascend the ranks within the company.
The lawsuit seeks undisclosed monetary damages, but does reference a loss of over $2 million in pay and benefits for Guster Hines and “hundreds of thousands of dollars” for Neal.
Both Guster-Hines and Neal allege they were demoted in 2018 from vice president positions to senior director roles after the company restructured under its former CEO, Steve Easterbrook. The suit claims the restructuring framed it so that Black employees were unable to obtain senior executive titles.
Easterbook was fired from the company in November after he admitted to partaking in a consensual relationship with a subordinate employee.
Easterbrook is named in the suit along with the company’s current CEO Chris Kempczinski and Charles Strong, head of the west-zone for McDonald’s.
The women are represented by Carmen Caruso, a Chicago-based attorney, who told the Tribune that her clients have taken a leave of absence from their current roles. Guster-Hines and Neal also filed a discriminatory suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Guster-Hines’ experience with the company began in 1987, where she first joined as a management trainee. After years of being passed over for roles, she was “finally” promoted to vice president of franchising and operations for the Houston office. However, her time in between being hired and her promotion was tainted when she alleges being called a racial slur by a higher-up exec, which went unpunished after she reported the incident in 2005.
Neal joined the company in 2012 as a director trainee in Chicago and was promoted in 2015 to vice president of franchising and operations, after her role as director of operations for the Indianapolis region.
“Guster-Hines and Neal allege their demotions were retaliation for their support of the National Black McDonald’s Owners Association in ongoing internal protests against the restaurant chain over a ‘startling decrease’ in the number of restaurants owned by African-Americans during the Easterbrook/Kempczinski era, according to the lawsuit,” The Tribune writes.
In a statement obtained by The Tribune in response to the lawsuit, the company argued 45% of its corporate officers and all 10 of its field vice presidents are persons of color.
“At McDonald’s, our actions are rooted in our belief that a diverse, vibrant, inclusive and respectful company makes us stronger,” the statement reads. “While we disagree with characterizations in the complaint, we are currently reviewing it and will respond to the complaint accordingly.”
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