In a federal civil rights lawsuit filed Thursday, 10 former workers at three McDonald’s locations in Virginia allege that they were unceremoniously fired last May after being told by supervisors that there were “too many black people” working at the franchises.
The lawsuit, filed this morning in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, alleges that high-ranking supervisors regularly referred to one of the branches as the “ghetto store” and referred to black workers as “ghetto” and “ratchet,” and that one supervisor sexually harassed female employees.
The employees, nine of whom are African American and one of whom is Hispanic, said in the complaint that the mass firings of 17 minority staff members came in May and that store managers told them at the time that it was “too dark” in the restaurants and that they “need to get the ghetto out of the store.”
“All of a sudden, they let me go, for no other reason than I ‘didn’t fit the profile’ they wanted at the store,” Willie Betts, who was a cook at one of the McDonald’s franchises, said in a statement.“I had no idea what they meant by the ‘right profile’ until I saw everyone else that they fired as well.”
Mike Simon, owner of the three branches where the firings took place – and who is black – has said previously that discrimination had nothing to do with the firings.
“I continually strive to maintain an environment in which everyone feels valued and accepted. To protect the privacy of current and past employees, I’m not at liberty to discuss issues regarding employment or termination,” Simon said in a statement to the media in May. “However, my organization has a strict policy of prohibiting any form of discrimination or harassment in hiring, termination or any other aspect of employment.”