A $4.35 million settlement announced Monday for a former McDonald’s employee who was sexually assaulted at age 14 at her Bethel Park workplace by her manager, a registered sex offender, is one of multiple legal actions embroiling the Pittsburgh-area franchisee.

The franchisee — Rice Enterprises, a Baldwin Borough-based company that owns eight McDonald’s locations in Allegheny County — is seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and is suing the company it used to conduct the background check on the manager.

A second teenage girl is also seeking damages against McDonald’s and Rice Enterprises in federal court, alleging sexual harassment by the same former manager.

The victim whose settlement was announced Monday recently had started her job when, authorities said, Walter Garner raped her in the restaurant’s bathroom in spring 2021.

“How is it that a convicted, registered sex offender is permitted to be hired to manage 14- to 17-year-old girls at a McDonald’s?” Alan Perer, the victim’s lawyer, said during a news conference Monday morning at his offices in Downtown Pittsburgh. “The facts of our case are horrific.”

Garner, 41, of Clairton previously pleaded guilty to statutory sexual assault and other offenses after prosecutors withdrew a rape charge. He was sentenced in October 2021 to up to 10 years in prison.

The teenage girl and her parents sued McDonald’s and Rice Enterprises in September 2021, alleging that she was harassed and raped by Garner, that the defendants knew about it and that they did nothing to stop it.

Perer said Monday that it was in the best interests of the victim to settle the case because he did not want to put her through a trial.

“There is no amount of compensation to account for lost innocence and trauma,” Perer said.

Rice Enterprises told TribLive on Monday that it had fired Garner after learning of the complaint and “offered our full support to the impacted employees.” The corporate arm of McDonald’s is not involved in the settlement “and was released from any legal claims on this topic.”

“Since then, we’ve redoubled our efforts to ensure a positive and respectful experience for all employees in our restaurants,” Rice Enterprises said in a prepared statement, “Our organization maintains a zero-tolerance policy for harassment of any kind.”

In May 2023, Rice Enterprises sued Backgroundchecks.com LLC, an online company that performs criminal background checks and maintains a database of 650 million records with offices in Nashville, Tenn. The website claims to be the “#1 online criminal conviction database in the industry based on an analysis of publicly available sources,” according to court documents.

Rice Enterprises claims that the paid search it conducted on July 27, 2018 on Backgroundchecks.com “did not indicate that Garner’s name was on the Pennsylvania Sex Offender Registry.”

“Importantly, the report showed that Garner had never been charged and/or convicted of a criminal offense in any of the 50 states,” the court document said.

The lawsuit alleges breach of contract, fraud and negligent misrepresentation.

Rice Enterprises filed for bankruptcy protection in March. Perer said Monday that Rice’s stores “are now being sold to finance the settlement.” That information could not be independently verified. He also claimed that McDonald’s “spent millions to fight the case.”

McDonald’s said, in a prepared statement to TribLive, that “all of our employees undergo safe and respectful workplace training upon hire.” The company has expanded training to take place twice a year.

According to the lawsuit, the girl, who was 14 at the time, applied to work at McDonald’s through the corporate website in October 2020. She was hired and told to report to the Bethel Park location on Library Road two days later, on Oct. 27. Under Pennsylvania law, a teen as young as 14 can obtain a work permit.

Garner is a lifetime registered sex offender in Pennsylvania, following a conviction in 2003 for aggravated indecent assault. He pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl, the complaint said, and was ordered to serve 11½ to 23 months in jail.

At the first day of the victim’s McDonald’s orientation, a 17-year-old girl led the training, which consisted of watching a video on how to hand food out at the drive-thru, the complaint said.

The victim did not receive any information related to human resources issues, nor was she taught how to report sexual harassment.

For the first couple of months, the complaint said, the girl had no trouble. However, in January 2021, Garner became the victim’s manager.

According to the lawsuit, Garner began sexually harassing the girl almost immediately, using sexual innuendo, including telling her that he wanted her “to be his happy meal.”

He began touching her inappropriately, the lawsuit said. The girl asked him to stop, the complaint said, but the harassment and abuse continued, causing the girl “severe emotional distress and anxiety.”

The lawsuit alleged that in mid-February 2021, when the girl went into the bathroom during a break, Garner entered after her, overpowered her, removed her uniform and raped her.

TribLive does not identify victims of sexual assault.

The lawsuit said that the teenage girl and two others who worked there and experienced harassment told the hiring manager what was happening.

A second girl, who began her McDonald’s employment in November 2020, alleged that Garner sexually harassed her as well. She is also suing McDonald’s and Rice Enterprises in federal court in Pittsburgh, alleging a hostile work environment and negligent hiring practices.

The plaintiff called Garner “rude, domineering, and hostile” toward employees and said that at one point he showed her child pornography.

Christi M. Wallace, a Pittsburgh lawyer who represents the second girl, did not return a call Monday for comment.

Justin Vellucci is a TribLive reporter covering crime and public safety in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. A longtime freelance journalist and former reporter for the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, he worked as a general assignment reporter at the Trib from 2006 to 2009 and returned in 2022. He can be reached at jvellucci@triblive.com.