Time's Up Fund Has Linked 4,000 Alleged Sexual Harassment Victims With Attorneys

Wednesday, January 8th 2020, 5:24 am
By: CBS News

When 20-year-old Barbara Johnson was working at a St. Louis area McDonald's in November 2017, the sexual harassment started with a co-worker's inappropriate comments, she said. 

"When I was going into work, I'd be thinking, do I really want to go in here and deal with this today?" she told CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan. "He made comments about my breasts, my lips, how juicy and sexy my lips look. What I would look like on top of him."

To keep a low profile, Johnson said she dressed differently.

"I even went and got two sizes up in my pants just so they could be baggy so my shape won't show in my pants or my uniform," she said.

Without going into detail, Johnson said she told the general manager things were not working out and her shift was switched. But less than two weeks later, Johnson said she was moved back. 

"He was like, 'Yes I got my girl back,'" she said.

After a month on the job, Johnson had enough when a shift manager touched her.

"The night that he touched my breasts was the last night I worked at McDonald's," she said. "I couldn't take it no more."

Not long after Johnson left, the Time's Up movement took off.

"A new day is on the horizon," Oprah Winfrey said to applause at the Golden Globes in January 2018. "Their time is up."

Amid that rise of the Time's Up and #MeToo movements, the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund formed.

"As Oprah was on stage saying Time's Up … we got over 200 calls just in those couple of hours," co-creator of the fund Fatima Goss Graves said.

Since 2018, they've raised $24 million in donations with the most support coming from the entertainment industry. Nearly 90% of the money goes toward helping survivors.

The fund pairs alleged work sexual harassment victims with their team of more than 700 lawyers and helps pay their legal fees. So far, they said they've linked an estimated 4,000 survivors with attorneys.

Johnson is one of them. "I don't have money to afford a lawyer," she said. "Or money for the court fees or none of that. They help me out a lot."

Johnson is now working at two different fast food restaurants. The claim she filed against McDonald's in 2018 is still pending.

McDonald's did not comment on Johnson's claim, but did address what it calls a "deeply important conversation around safe and respectful workplaces" and said it is committed to the issue.

Asked what the biggest obstacle the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund faces, Graves said sometimes people call them too late.

"Your time for filing a claim is really very short and very few people know that," she said.

According to a new CBS News poll, 51% of people view the Time's Up and #MeToo movements favorably. But the poll also shows 38% of men and 29% of women think the movements have gone too far.

Responding to critics, Graves said they "were there day one."

"There's a saying that anytime you do anything that upsets the balance of power that's going to be seen as going too far," she said.

Asked what the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund will look like in five years, Graves said hopefully there will be changes to the laws about harassment. The biggest piece of legislation the group wants to see passed is the national Be Heard in the Workplace Act, which would implement mandatory nondiscrimination policies and fine employees for violating them.

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