McDonald’s sexual harassment lawsuit gets a boost from Human Rights department

A 14-year-old employee and her mother have also sued a Twin Cities McDonald’s franchisee

By: - December 14, 2021 1:55 pm

(Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights has filed to join a lawsuit against a Twin Cities McDonald’s franchisee, alleging it fostered a workplace culture of sexual harassment that led to a 14-year-old employee being raped by a manager at a Maple Grove McDonald’s in 2019.

The action comes days after the former employee and her mother filed a civil lawsuit Friday in Hennepin County. Their suit targets Hyder Investments, Inc., which operates more than a dozen McDonald’s in Minneapolis, Crystal, Maple Grove and other cities. 

Andrew Otero Albertorio, who was 24 when he worked as a shift manager at the fast-food restaurant, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to criminal sexual misconduct in January 2020.

The civil lawsuit filed against the McDonald’s franchisee takes aims at the company’s sexual-harassment policies, which the DHR alleges failed to protect employees. 

“Workers – especially young workers – have the right to be safe at work. Here, McDonald’s failed to create a safe workplace when a manager repeatedly sexually assaulted a 14-year-old worker,” DHR Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said in a statement. “Employers must create a culture where its employees can work with dignity, free from sexual harassment and assault. This lawsuit is a reminder that, in fact, employers have a legal obligation to do so.”

In a statement, Shahab Hyder, the owner-operator of the Maple Grove McDonald’s where the assault occurred, said it would review the claims in the lawsuit filing.

“The safety and well-being of my crew has always been a top priority, and we are deeply committed to offering a safe and respectful work environment for all of our team members. We take this commitment seriously, which is why we conduct routine sexual harassment training and implement strict policies for all crew to abide by,” Hyder said. “The claims in this filing go against everything we stand for as an organization, and we will review them and respond accordingly.”

The complaints from the minor and the DHR say that other managers at the Maple Grove McDonald’s were aware of the inappropriate relationship between Albertorio and the 14-year-old. The minor’s mother said in the complaint that Albertorio groomed her daughter for the abuse and assaulted her repeatedly during work hours in the restaurant’s cooler, rooftop and other locations.

The complaint described a particular assault in January 2019 that occured in the restaurant’s cooler.

“After he assaulted her, they walked out of the cooler and continued to work. To illustrate the absurdity of the situation, (the minor) then had to ask Alberterio for permission to go to the bathroom after he stole her virginity in the McDonald’s cooler,” the complaint reads, with the last phrase in italics. 

The lawsuit filed by the former employee and her mother seeks damages in excess of $50,000. The DHR says it is seeking structural change to ensure all employees are able to work in a safe workplace.

The DHR says it learned that the restaurant’s policy says someone could call and report sexual harassment, but provided an unusable telephone number, made up solely of the letter “X.” 

In October, hundreds of McDonald’s employees walked out of restaurants in various cities to protest against what they say is repeated sexual harassment. Two women in Florida filed a $500 million lawsuit against McDonald’s alleging a hostile work environment.

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez was a senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.