- In a new round of complaints Tuesday, McDonald's workers filed 25 lawsuits and U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charges alleging sexual harassment, according to the National Women's Law Center Fund.
- 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, and in the fall of 2018, McDonald's employees in 10 cities went on strike to protest sexual harassment.
- In a letter obtained by USA Today, CEO Steve Easterbrook 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, indicating that the alleged problems may be pervasive and require some type of cultural shift from the top down.
McDonald's has acknowledged and taken some action on the issue. Last year, the chain began working with anti-sexual violence organization RAINN, for example, and adopted a new policy aimed at more clearly communicating employee rights, as well as procedures for filing 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, some experts caution against anonymous reporting mechanisms, as they make it difficult for HR to investigate claims. Others, however, say they allow victims to come forward without the fear of retaliation. EEOC said in 2016 that between 87% to 94% of individuals who experience sexual harassment do not formally report it. Anonymous hotlines may be one solution to bridge that gap.
McDonald's is certainly not the only restaurant chain that has navigated sexual harassment issues in recent years. 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, however: McDonald's and others can't afford to wait for a cultural shift to right the ship. The #MeToo movement has emboldened victims to bring 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.