Wednesday, February 7, 2024

The 3rd nominee for the Worst Employer of 2024 is … the supersized sex offender

A McDonald's franchisee has agreed to pay $4.35 million to settle claims brought by a 14-year-old worker raped by a manager.

According to the now settled lawsuit, the franchisee, Rice Enterprises, knew that its manager, Walter Garner, was sexually harassing child employees before Garner raped the plaintiff. Garner, already a registered sex offender during his employment, later pleaded guilty to criminal charges stemming from the rape and is now in prison.

The allegations are as bad as you might think. 

Garner sexually harassed and groped multiple female employees, including another minor, prior to the rape. Several of them, including the rape victim, complained to Garner's bosses, who did nothing. The lawsuit also claims that management witnessed Garner's sexual abuse on security-camera footage but merely spoke to Garner without any discipline or other consequences.

Moreover, six months prior to the rape, the father of another underage worker, who Garner had been messaging on Facebook, discovered that Garner was a registered sex offender. The franchisee, however, did not terminate Garner until his arrest following a police complaint made by the school of yet another of his victims.

Employers, if you employ minors, you have a heightened obligation to protect them from sexual harassment at work. This responsibility includes not having them work with registered sex offenders. The misconduct in this case, however, goes well beyond "harassment." This was straight-up sexual abuse by a serial predator. By any measure, this employer fell well short of its legal and moral obligations to protect all of its employees.

According to the victim's lawyer, "For a company to allow a known sex offender to have access to and control over young teens turns America's best first job into a nightmare for those teens." For that reason, Rice Enterprises is the 3rd nominee for the Worst Employer of 2024.