Lawsuits claim Wendy's in Sydney failed to protect female employees from sex assault

·2 min read
The Wendy's restaurant in Sydney, N.S., is shown on Thursday. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)
The Wendy's restaurant in Sydney, N.S., is shown on Thursday. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)

Two lawsuits are alleging that a Wendy's fast-food restaurant in Sydney, N.S., was negligent in failing to protect female employees from repeated sexual assaults by a supervisor.

One of the lawsuits was filed in Nova Scotia Supreme Court against T-Roy Enterprises Ltd., the owner of the Wendy's location, back in March. A second is expected to be filed later Thursday.

Halifax-based Valent Legal, the law firm behind the lawsuits, said the restaurant took no steps to investigate or address the reported sexual misconduct by the plaintiffs' supervisor, identified as David MacDonald.

Court records show that MacDonald, 25, has pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual assault, each involving a different victim. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday. The law firm said the charges relate to incidents at the restaurant.

CBC has reached out to the owner of the restaurant and to Wendy's Company for comment. In a statement of defence filed on June 8 involving the first case, T-Roy Enterprises denied all of the allegations related to that plaintiff.

It stated the woman was the subject of a number of verbal and written warning regarding her poor performance at work, and was subsequently terminated with just cause.

T-Roy Enterprises is asking that the action be dismissed with unnamed costs awarded to the company. A statement of defence with regards to the second plaintiff has yet to be filed.

Tom Ayers/CBC
Tom Ayers/CBC

The plaintiffs were minors at the time the assaults occurred, according to a news release from Valent Legal. The plaintiffs say they and other female employees informed Wendy's of the sexual assaults, and that in 2019, one female employee filed a police report accusing MacDonald of criminal sexual assault at the workplace.

"This case highlights the importance of taking allegations of workplace sexual assault seriously," Basia Sowinski, a litigation lawyer with Valent Legal, said in a press release.

"It is important that employers take active steps to protect their employees and ensure that proper avenues for recourse exist."

Supervisor continued to work, lawsuit says

After being made aware of the allegations and subsequent police investigation, the lawsuit claims the Wendy's in Sydney continued to employ and regularly schedule MacDonald to work with the plaintiffs and the other female employees.

One complainant alleges that MacDonald continued to sexually assault her until his arrest in August 2020.

The statement of claim of one female employee said Wendy's significantly reduced her working hours after police became involved and eventually removed her from the shift schedule entirely, although no formal letter of termination was issued.

She also alleges that she was subject to hostile behaviour, excessive scrutiny and social exclusion during some shifts.

Her lawsuit is seeking damages for things like pain and suffering. It did not name an amount.

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