Transgender employee claims she faced 'extreme sexual harassment' at Detroit McDonald's

Former employee files civil rights lawsuit against Detriot McDonald's

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

DETROIT – A former employee at a Detroit McDonald's restaurant filed a civil rights lawsuit, claiming she was ordered to use a broom closet as a bathroom, suffered genital groping and was verbally assaulted, because she is transgendered.

The lawsuit, filed in Wayne County Circuit Court, accused the company with multiple counts of "extreme sexual harassment" and discrimination.

La'Ray Reed said she was fired after she tried to report the mistreatment to her store's corporate manager.

"There were days when I thought everything would be so much easier if I killed myself,” Reed said. "I really felt like I had to put up with daily harassment and abuse, because this was my only source of income. Finally, I decided to speak out, because I just couldn’t take it anymore. But I was fired a week after I called the franchise owner."

Reed claimed a coworker once groped her genitals at the instruction of a store manager, who said over the headset for all employees to hear, "You can't feel it from the front. You have to feel it from the back."

She alleged another store manager barred her from using the men's and women's bathrooms, instead ordering her to use the broom closet.

Reed claimed a manager once yelled, "Boy-slash-girl, step off the drive-thru" at her when she was working the drive-thru line. Reed said she was relegated to back-to-the-house assignments afterward.

When Reed reported to the store to collect her final paycheck, she said the store manager said, "You think I don't know what you are because of how you dress and look?"

The lawsuit said this is the latest in a series of complaints by McDonald's workers in an apparent "widespread pattern of sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse against gay and transgender employees at the company."

McDonald's recently announced it will serve rainbow-themed fry boxes at stores in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco to support LGBT Pride Month. The company was also a sponsor of the Capital Pride Parade and the San Francisco Pride Celebration earlier this month.

"McDonald’s can’t pinkwash its record of harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ workers with a fry box and a parade float," said Jerame Davis, executive director of Pride at Work, a national advocacy group for LGBT workers. "It will take a real commitment to equality and better treatment for its workers to address the horrific allegations in these complaints."

Similar complaints made against McDonald's

In an equal employment opportunities complaint filed in Kansas City last year, worker Andrew McConnell alleged he was called derogatory names by a McDonald's general manager. McConnell said another manager once refused to help him find a first-aid kit when he was injured, saying, "You are gay, and you might have HIV."

In an EEOC complaint filed last year in Miami, employee Westley Williams said he was repeatedly harassed by his manager, who allegedly called him "cover girl" and said he "could never have a girlfriend, because you like p****." Williams said his manager once rubbed his genitals against William's behind, and when Williams requested a transfer, he said his request was denied, and his pay and hours were reduced.

A Milwaukee McDonald's worker filed an EEOC complaint last year, alleging weekly verbal and physical harassment from managers after they learned she had a girlfriend. Jasmine Bell said one manager told her that she "just hadn't had the right d*** yet" and tried to persuade her to have sex.

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.