According to ABC News and 20/20, major legal and public relations scandals are brewing for fast-food giants Starbucks, McDonald's and Taco Bell involving numerous claims of franchise managers pressuring teenage girls in their employ to have sex with them.
According to news report by ABC News' Brian Ross and 20/20 news show, fast food giants Starbucks, McDonald's and Taco Bell are on the verge of major lawsuits and public relations scandals resulting from the sexual harassment by franchise managers and supervisors of young teenage girls in their employ. The report references a statement by attorney Bill Cash of the national Equal Opportunity Employment Commission that an "alarmingly high" number of high school students are reporting sexual advances from their adult bosses at some of the country's largest and best known fast food operations.
One of the most prominent cases on its way to court is that of Katie Moore, a former 16-year-old barista at a Starbucks franchise in Orange County, California. Ms. Moore, now 20, claims to have been pressured into sex by her 24-year-old supervisor. Moore showed ABC News a text message on her cellphone from her supervisor which read, "I'd like to f*** tomorrow." Moore said she received many such texts on a daily basis.
Ms. Moore described the situation and pressures in an interview with ABC News:
"I felt like I didn't have a choice," Moore, now 20, told ABC News."I was ashamed and embarrassed. And I felt like he had complete control over my job... he knew all this stuff about my family and my friends and my school."
The Starbucks law firm in the case, Aiken Gump, is making Ms. Moore's sexual history the focal point of their defense. The federal court Judge Andrew J. Guilford concurred with the Starbucks lawyers, subsequently ordering Moore's personal information unsealed because of the company's need "to defend themselves" and "level the playing field."
As Ms. Moore put it, "Starbucks is trying to defend themselves by calling me a slut."
As the Boston Herald reported last September, a Saugus, Massachusetts Starbucks franchise is also being sued by a female employee for repeated sexual harassment. But Starbucks is far from alone in the legal crosshairs and under the sexual harassment microscope. Fast food giant McDonald's is also facing legal action from a former 16-year-old female employee, Kasey Ramirez, who said that a 23-year old shift supervisor at the Sacramento franchise where she worked lured her into a back storage room, put his hands around her waist and pulled her close. Here is how Ms. Ramirez described her situation to ABC News:
"He said, 'It's okay, don't be scared, you can trust me,'" Ramirez told ABC News. "I thought his plan was to try and rape me." She said she broke away and went to another supervisor in hysterics, who she says told her not to be so upset because everyone knew the shift supervisor, who was later fired, was a pervert.
The Sacramento McDonald's franchise owner, Michael Godlove, told the press that the supervisor in question was fired shortly after the revelation. McDonald's corporate HQ issued a statement in the case defending their sexual harassment policies, which you can read in pdf format here (Adobe Reader required).
Meanwhile, over at Taco Bell, a manager at a Memphis, Tennessee franchise recently pleaded guilty to raping two of his 16-year-old employees, one of whom is now pregnant as a result. According to the report, the first victim was raped two months into her employ, the second on her very first day on the job. That is according to a statement by Bill Cash, an attorney for the EEOC which received the complaint in the case.