- McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski sent a letter to its global franchisees, suppliers and employees on Sunday acknowledging a TV segment on CBS Sunday Morning that outlined a variety of sexual harassment allegations at some McDonald's restaurants. The segment featured women who had either filed discrimination charges or lawsuits against McDonald's corporate restaurants or its operators.
- Kempczinski has asked a team of executives — including Joe Erlinger, president of McDonald's USA; Ian Borden, president of McDonald's International; Heidi Capozzi, global chief people officer; and Katie Fallon, chief global impact officer — to review the company's current policies and programs regarding workplace safety. As part of that review, McDonald's will solicit input from franchisees and crew members to define a set of global brand standards that will be shared later in 2021.
- McDonald's sexual harassment issues long pre-date CBS's report. The mega chain has been hit with three new sexual harassment lawsuits already this year, while a $500 million sexual harassment lawsuit was filed in April 2020, and a class-action sexual harassment lawsuit was filed in November 2019.
McDonald's has already taken measures to quash its sexual harassment problem in the past, but it seems the CBS Sunday Morning is instilling a renewed sense of urgency around the issue. Tasking four of the company's top leaders with updating its brand standards on the issue, and taking employee feedback into account, could help further address the chain's culture issues.
"Let me put say plainly: every single person working under the Arches must have a safe and respectful work environment. Sexual harassment in the workplace is an affront to everything we stand for as a system. It has no place in any McDonald’s restaurant and it will not be tolerated," Kempczinski wrote in the letter.
In 2019, the company created a four-page policy against "discrimination, harassment and retaliation" that includes guidance on what to do if the policy has been violated. In the guidance, McDonald's encourages victims to make their complaint known to the company and ensures "the appropriate steps are taken as outlined in this policy," such as reaching out to general managers and HR consultants with complaints. McDonald's also trained approximately 850,000 restaurant employees in fall of 2019 based on its safe workplace policy.
Complaints will be "investigated thoroughly and fairly" by a neutral person and corrective action, including termination, reassignment, warnings, trainings and counseling, will be taken after an investigation, according to the policy. Notably, however, this policy only applies to its corporate stores, CBS reports, and serves as a resource to the chain's 95% of franchised restaurants rather than a requirement.
This policy gap could be the cause of the large number of complaints that continue to crop up against the company. CBS reported there may be roughly 100 lawsuits and charges of discrimination against McDonald's. But McDonald's also told CBS that it makes training available to its franchisees, and pointed to the sexual harassment hotline that is available for all franchisees to provide to their employees. McDonald's launched an anonymous sexual harassment hotline in June of 2019.
McDonald's isn't alone in this problem, however. Sexual harassment is more common in the restaurant space than in any other industry, according to the Harvard Business Review. As many as 90% of women and 70% of men in the industry have reported some form of sexual harassment, according to 2018 research.