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Would you like some fries with that shake?
Women around the country are all-too familiar with that pickup line, but it crosses over to sexual harassment if you're a McDonald's employee and it's said by your boss. Now, female McDonald's workers say they are tired of being ignored by managers when they report supervisors that have sexually assaulting them, asked for sex, or exposed themselves at work.
#MeToo for the Masses
In what could be the first labor strike to target a U.S. Company since the launch of the #MeToo movement, hundreds of female employees across America plan to walk out on their McDonald's jobs on September 18th, if the company doesn't address this issue. To date, the company has been silent since 10 women filed sexual harassment complaints against the company in May 2018 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The women believe this is a good way to get the company to talk about this pressing and current issue. But what if the company does more than just talk. What if they fire the women that walk out. Is that legal?
Can These Women Be Fired for Walking Out?
Generally speaking, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects an employee's right to "protected, concerted activity", which includes organized strikes such as this. This act does not protect supervisors, government workers, or agriculture laborers. Originally, the Act was only meant to protect members of labor unions, but the National Labor Relations Board has recently helped protect nonunion laborers as well, provided the strikes aren't unlawful. In this situation, if the strike is peaceful, doesn't block people from entering the restaurant or parking lot, and the employees don't have a no-strike clause in their employment contract, then the women should not be fired for striking.
But What If They Are
Of course, there's a different between should they be fired and can they be fired? Employers can often terminate employees for no reason at all, if they are at-will employees, so long as they aren't being fired for a protected reason, like being a woman or of a specific race or age. If they are fired, the burden will shift to the women to sue for wrongful termination, and prove that they were a protected class that should not be fired, which may not be easy, nor cheap. If successful, wrongfully terminated employees can be entitled to back pay, front pay (the pay to cover until new employment is secured), reinstatement, and/or compensatory and punitive damages.
If you have gone on strike and been fired, contact a local employee's rights attorney. Wrongful termination laws vary by state, and can be complicated. A seasoned attorney can listen to your claim and see if you are entitled to any relief.