McDonald’s Franchisee Settles $4.4 Million Lawsuit Over Sexual Assault of Teenage Employee by Registered Sex Offender Manager

In a case of workplace sexual assault, a McDonald’s franchisee has agreed to pay a staggering $4.4 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a teenage girl who was sexually assaulted by her manager, Walter A. Garner, a registered sex offender. The incident occurred at a McDonald’s location in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, just four months after the victim, who remains unidentified, was hired.

According to the lawsuit, Garner, who had previously served prison time for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in 2003, began sexually harassing the young employee almost immediately after becoming her boss. He used explicit sexual innuendos, including telling her that he wanted her “to be his happy meal.” Despite the victim’s pleas for him to stop, Garner continued to touch her inappropriately, causing severe emotional distress and anxiety.

The situation escalated in February 2021 when Garner followed the girl into the bathroom and forced himself onto her. Disturbingly, the victim and two other employees who worked at the McDonald’s location immediately reported the incident to the hiring manager. However, it was later revealed that the victim had never been provided with information related to human resources during her orientation, which consisted of watching tutorials on how to hand food out to drive-thru customers.

Rice Enterprises, the franchisee that owns eight McDonald’s restaurants in the Pittsburgh area, promptly fired Garner upon learning of the complaint and offered support to the affected employees. Garner, in turn, pleaded guilty to statutory sexual assault and other offenses, resulting in a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

In a surprising turn of events, Rice Enterprises filed a lawsuit against Backgroundchecks.com LLC, the online company it used to perform criminal background checks on candidates. The franchisee claims that the background check failed to indicate that Garner’s name was on the Pennsylvania Sex Offender Registry, despite the site’s claim of being the “#1 online criminal conviction database in the industry.” Rice Enterprises alleges breach of contract, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation in their lawsuit.

As a result of the settlement, Rice Enterprises is seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and plans to sell off its portfolio of restaurants to finance the $4.4 million payout. It is worth noting that McDonald’s corporation is not directly involved in the case.

This distressing incident is not an isolated one, as Rice Enterprises is currently facing another lawsuit from a second teenage girl who alleges that she was also sexually harassed by Garner while working at another McDonald’s location owned by the franchisee in November 2020. The plaintiff claims that Garner exhibited rude, domineering, and hostile behavior, even going so far as to show her child pornography.

The second victim has filed a lawsuit against both McDonald’s and Rice Enterprises, citing a hostile work environment and negligent hiring practices. The case is currently being heard in federal court in Pittsburgh.

The settlement and subsequent bankruptcy filing by Rice Enterprises highlight the devastating consequences of workplace sexual assault and the urgent need for companies to prioritize the safety and well-being of their employees.

CrimeDoor
Author: CrimeDoor

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