McDonald's says it's offering training to combat harassment

Marco Green
May 22, 2019

More than two dozen current and former McDonald's workers filed sexual harassment complaints Tuesday to confront what they say is widespread misconduct at the fast-food behemoth.

Lawsuits and complaints against McDonald's reflect "the brutal reality" of sexual harassment facing low-wage workers generally and at that fast-food chain in particular, according to a press release by the groups pursuing charges of misconduct.

The advocacy groups said they were unimpressed with McDonald's efforts to address the problem.

FBN's Jeff Flock on the protest outside of the McDonald's headquarters over sexual harassment allegations. A pair of those complaints have been allowed to proceed as lawsuits against the company or its franchisees. Since the fund began, thousands of workers have requested legal help, highlighting the influence of the #MeToo movement and its reach beyond Hollywood and the entertainment industry.

The complaints allege that repeated efforts by workers to seek assistance from management were ignored or mocked. The group has also pushed to have McDonald's recognized as a joint employer of its franchisees' employees. "The measures that McDonald's claims to have implemented, or to have in the works, are better than nothing, but the company has yet to commit to meting out consequences for stores, whether corporate-owned or franchised, where harassment continues to flourish". It has also stopped pushing back against increases in the minimum wage. In a letter to "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi, who has joined the effort to push for higher wages and unionization at McDonald's, CEO Steve Easterbrook detailed the company's efforts to improve its policy and standards.

"McDonald's refuses to take responsibility for harassment experienced by employees in its restaurants", said Gillian Thomas, senior staff attorney for the ACLU Women's Rights Project.

"McDonald's is sending a clear message that we are committed to creating and sustaining a culture of trust where employees feel safe, valued and respected", Easterbrook said in the letter. Many of the EEOC charges filed against McDonald's beginning in 2016 are still pending.

The Time's Up legal defense fund, created to help workers who don't have deep pockets to fight sexual harassment, is bankrolling the effort.

Sharyn Tejani, director of the Time's Up fund, which is part of the National Women's Law Center, said having to put up with workplace harassment should not be a cost of making a living.

The Chicago-based company said it has more than 14,000 locations in the United States with some 850,000 workers and has limited authority over the personnel decisions of its USA franchisees - independent businesses that operate more than 90 percent of its U.S. restaurants. Some workers say they were demoted or fired when they complained about harassment.

Among the complainants is a New Orleans woman whose manager dismissed her groping complaint because she was "probably giving sex appeal" and a Chicago worker who says she was sacked after complaining about a manager who offered to expose himself to her, according to the legal defense fund.

Numerous cases are still pending - two have advanced to lawsuits, joining three other lawsuits filed outside of EEOC review, according to workers' advocates who claim McDonald's has not done enough to address their concerns. McDonald's said it had no comment beyond the letter it sent Monday. "But these new charges show that nothing has changed".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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