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New Jersey lawsuit against McDonald's is one of many

A woman who worked at a McDonald's in Farmingdale, New Jersey, has filed a lawsuit against the fast-food giant. She says that after reporting unsanitary and unsafe conditions that were "endemic to the workplace," she was called racist, sexist and other derogatory names and sexually harassed. Her working conditions became so stressful, she says, that her physical and mental health suffered. She eventually left the company.

According to the lawsuit, the woman witnessed employees and managers serving food that had been dropped on the floor and even rubbed on their bodies, and that they didn't wash their hands after using the restroom. She also says she saw, among other potential health issues, black mold on the ice machine. Some of her colleagues' antics, she said, endangered her and others – including one incident that burned her and another that started a fire.

After she reported the conditions to the regional manager, along with photos, she says nothing was done to improve those conditions. In fact, she says she became the target of retaliation, including racial slurs and an incident where a male employee put his hand down her shirt.

This is by no means the first report of problems at McDonald's by current and former employees, including a complaint filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and a public health complaint in Oakland, California.

There have been multiple lawsuits over violence by customers and sexual harassment by managers and co-workers. At one point, McDonald's workers even staged a national strike to protest sexual harassment. According to one survey of McDonald's employees, some 75% reported being sexually harassed.

McDonald's problems haven't been contained to its restaurants. The company fired its chief executive officer last November after he admitted to having a consensual relationship with one of his subordinates. However, he left with a $40 million-plus exit payout.

Now the company wants its money back. In its lawsuit against him, it says it now has evidence that the CEO engaged in at least three other relationships with employees and also "approved an extraordinary stock grant, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars" for one of them.

It takes a lot of bravery to report unsafe or other problematic working conditions. Many employees don't report them out of fear of retaliation. It can help to have an experienced attorney by your side to provide guidance and help protect your rights.

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