State and Federal Reach Sexual Harassment Agreement with Employer

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – A Vermont company that operates as a franchisee of a McDonald’s restaurant has been ordered to pay $1.6 million in damages after authorities say it failed to protect young people workers from harm and sexual harassment, the state attorney general’s office said. Friday.

The settlement reached by the state and the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission with Coughlin Inc. is the largest public sexual harassment settlement in the history of the Attorney General’s office and one of the largest discrimination settlements jobs reported in Vermont, according to the state.

Among the terms of the five-year consent decree, Coughlin will establish a $1.2 million settlement fund to compensate victims of harassment at his Randolph restaurant and revise its policies and procedures regarding sexual harassment.

He will also pay $125,000 in civil penalties and other damages to the State of Vermont, and $275,000 in damages to the estate of one of the plaintiffs who died during the litigation.

The state says the litigation began when the EEOC sued Coughlin in March 2021 for failing to protect young workers at its Randolph restaurant from a manager whose conduct over a period of years included beatings of employees, as well as offensive and degrading sexual comments.

The state says it intervened in the case because of its history with Coughlin. In 2007, the state office’s Civil Rights Unit determined that Coughlin violated Vermont’s Fair Employment Practices Act by failing to address the sexual harassment of employees at another McDonald’s restaurant.

“These regulations set the tone for employers to recognize their duty to keep workers safe, respect their dignity and provide a workplace free of discrimination,” said Vermont Acting Attorney General Joshua. Diamond, in a statement.

Coughlin’s attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.