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updated: 1/22/2013 8:14 PM

Palatine McDonald's workers file sex assault complaint

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Four female employees of a McDonald's in Palatine are suing the restaurant's manager, the franchise owners and the Oak Brook-based corporation, claiming they were sexually assaulted at the business.

The women are seeking at least $75,000 in damages and other expenses, according to a complaint filed this month in Cook County court.

Over several months beginning in April 2011, on woman alleges, manager Alfonso Rojas locked her in an office and touched her inappropriately, exposed himself and forced her to engage in sexual conduct.

The suit states she didn't report the abuse out of fear of retaliation. Her son worked at the restaurant and witnessed Rojas' abusive behavior toward women, the complaint states. She resigned due to a "violent workplace," according to the suit.

Another woman said she refused Rojas' similar advances and through an attorney notified owners Eileen and Lawrence Kushner, who have owned the restaurant at 1570 E. Northwest Highway since 2009, of the manager's behavior. As a result, she alleges, her hours were reduced and her shift changed.

Attempts to reach Rojas and the Kushners were unsuccessful Tuesday. A man who answered the restaurant's phone wouldn't comment. A message left with McDonald's Corp. in Oak Brook wasn't returned.

The suit alleges several more incidents of assault, battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, workplace retaliation and negligent supervision that caused the plaintiffs to suffer emotional and physical pain.

The women's attorney, Ann O'Connell, states in the lawsuit that the Kushners, who own a second Palatine McDonald's and one in Buffalo Grove, choose to ignore Rojas' behavior. O'Connell also wrote that "Rojas preyed on marginalized low income plaintiffs who required their job to provide bare necessities to their families and placed himself in a position to gain access to his victims."

Palatine police Cmdr. Kurt Schroeder said that after two-month investigation conducted with the Cook County state's attorney's office, officials opted not to pursue criminal charges.

"There were too many inconsistencies and conflicting statements," he said. "We found no evidence of sexual abuse or a threat of sexual abuse."

Eileen Kushner, who last year co-authored a self-published book about her struggles with learning disabilities, is known in the area for hiring others with disabilities, including a blind man to work a McDonald's grill.

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