Just one week after La’Ray Reed called a McDonald’s corporate manager to bring attention to the extreme physical and verbal assaults that she was experiencing on the job, she was fired.
Within just a five month span working at a Detroit location for the fast-food chain, Reed, an out trans woman, faced harassment based on her gender identity. She was asked inappropriate personal questions—such as if she was a “top or bottom” and what her “role in the bedroom” was. Her managers would clock her out in the middle of shifts and send her home early even when she had worked the least hours. A few of the recorded instances of sexual harassment Reed received were absolutely abhorrent, including co-workers groping her genitals, forcing her to use a broom closet as a restroom, and referring to her as “boy-slash-girl” during shift hours.
When Reed initially met with a corporate manager and brought to light her complaints of harassment, the manager informed her that he would dig deeper into the case and get back to her—but he never did. “There were days,” she told local reporters, “where I thought everything would be so much easier if I killed myself.”
Sexual harassment and discrimination seem to be common themes within the corporate food chain McDonalds. Last October, 15 women from McDonald franchises across the country came forward with workplace sexual harassment allegations. Kristi Maisenbach, an employee at a Folsom, Calif. location, alleged that her supervisor continuously groped her and then sent her a text messaging saying he would give her $1,000 in exchange for oral sex. When Maisenbach came forward, her hours were cut and her hourly wage was lowered. In Flint, Mich., Cycei Monae said she was physically and verbally harassed by her supervisor regularly. She reported this behavior, but nothing was ever done about it. Monae eventually quit in frustration.
12 transgender women of color have been killed in the U.S. in 2017 alone. As many as 40 percent of transgender adults have reported thinking about suicide due to rejection by peers, cissexism and victimization or abuse. The hostility that Reed experienced is a version of the same violence which is killing her peers. The way she was made to feel isolated, unsupported and rejected is part of a lethal stigmatization that claims the lives of too many LGBT people, and especially trans women of color.
But Reed is not standing alone. Labor rights group Fight for 15 launched a petition supporting Reed and fighting back against a culture of sexual harassment at McDonald’s. Kendall Fells, Fight for 15’s Organizing Director, proclaimed that “cooks and cashiers are going to keep on joining together, speaking out and taking every step possible to make sure McDonald’s follows its own policies and gets sexual harassment off the menu.”