Philadelphia Employment Law News

Woman Sues McDonald's Over Prostitution?

McDonald's is a popular scapegoat for many of society's ills. Despite the fact that they are only one of dozens of fast food restaurant chains in the United States, they have shouldered much of the blame for the nation's obesity epidemic. The seemingly infinite number of locations worldwide compete against small restaurants and have put many out of business. Their coffee burned at least one woman's groin, thighs, and buttocks and they are currently being sued for two more coffee burn incidents.

Fair or not, they have been blamed for health issues, labor issues, economic woes, and now a woman is blaming the chain for sex trafficking, reports the Courthouse News Service.

The plaintiff, Shelley Lynn, met one of the defendants, Keith Handley back in 1982, when he hired her to work at one of his franchised McDonald's locations. Three years later, they started dating. She was fired shortly thereafter, but continued to date him. Within a year, he convinced her to move to Las Vegas and become a prostitute at a legal brothel. Lynn married Handley in March 1988.

What does any of this have to do with McDonald's? Lynn claims that McDonald's is at fault because they work to keep unions out, have poor health care plans, and no retirement options. Employees are paid at or near minimum wage. She also alleges that it was McDonalds' duty to do extensive moral character checks before awarding franchises of their locations.

There is no word yet on whether Handley had anything in his background that could have tipped McDonald's off to his nefarious plan to hire employees, work them at the counter for three years, and then turn them into legalized prostitutes in Nevada.

However, the case is interesting from a legal angle. It is possible that McDonald's could be liable if it maintained enough of a supervisory role over its franchised locations' daily employment and hiring practices. If they merely licensed out McDonald's logos, brands, and supplies and exercised little to no control over the employment and business side of the franchises, Lynn's claims will likely fail.

Also, McDonald's already tenous connection to Lynn ended when her employment was terminated. If her timeline is correct, she didn't start turning tricks until nearly a year after she was fired and until she had moved out of state. She does allege that Handley had been pimping out of his restaurants, but she took no part.

In addition, Lynn will likely run into issues with the suit being time-barred, as the events in question happened in the mid-1980s and the applicable statute of limitations has almost certainly expired.

It will be interesting to see if Shelley Lynn and her attorney are able to overcome the possible statute of limitations defenses and find enough proof to tie McDonald's to the daily operation and management of Keith Handley's franchised locations.

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