- Twenty-five women across 20 U.S. cities have filed lawsuits or complaints against McDonald’s, alleging they experienced sexual harassment while working for the chain. The allegations include groping, indecent exposure, lewd comments and propositions for sex, according to USA Today.
- This isn’t the first time these types of accusations have been lobbed against the chain. In the fall of 2018, McDonald’s employees in 10 cities went on strike to protest sexual harassment. A total of 50 charges and suits have been brought across the quick-service giant throughout the past three years.
- In a letter obtained by USA Today, CEO Steve Easterbrook has outlined what the company is doing to improve on this issue, including an enhanced policy and an anonymous hotline, coming in June.
The complaints against the chain span across markets and entail both restaurant and corporate office employees, which indicates that, if true, the issue is pervasive within the organization and requires some type of urgent cultural shift from the top down.
McDonald’s has made some progress on the issue. Last year, the chain began working with anti-sexual violence organization RAINN, for example, while the enhanced policy more clearly communicates employee rights, as well as procedures on how to file and address complaints. Further, training continues for managers and employees and, as Nation’s Restaurant News reports, a hotline for employees to file anonymous reports will be added in June.
Of course, anonymous reporting makes it harder to prove misconduct and facilitate due process, but it also helps victims to be more comfortable in coming forward without the fear of retaliation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported in 2016 that between 6% and 13% of people who experienced harassment at work filed a formal complaint, meaning 87% to 94% of people do not report it. Anonymous hotlines are one solution to bridge this gap. Since McDonald’s hotline hasn’t launched yet, however, it’s hard to predict how, if at all, it will rectify the chain’s current issues.
And those issues have apparently been festering for quite some time. One employee told USA Today that they have been speaking out against the company’s “sexual harassment problem” for years to no avail. She suggests that executives work with employees at the restaurant level to come up with additional solutions, including a zero-tolerance policy.
McDonald’s is certainly not the only chain that has navigated sexual harassment issues. In fact, 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.
One thing is clear, McDonald’s and other chains can’t afford to wait for a cultural shift to take place on this issue. The #MeToo movement has bolstered victims to push their experiences into the spotlight, and has brought down a number of well-known restaurateurs in the process, including Mario Batali, John Besh, Mike Isabella and Ken Friedman.