- McDonald’s workers in 12 cities walked off the job Tuesday in protest of the company’s alleged handling of ongoing sexual harassment claims, including issues raised in three new complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to an announcement from Fight for $15.
- In the complaints, which come from multiple cities across the U.S., workers alleged ongoing sexual harassment, including unwanted touching and consistent dismissal of the issues by local leadership. One complaint involved a woman facing daily lewd comments from a maintenance worker; in one instance, he showed the worker a photo of his genitalia.
- The strikes took place in Charleston, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Durham, North Carolina; Marion, North Carolina; Chicago; Detroit; Houston; Miami; Milwaukee; Orlando; St. Louis; and Tampa. In an email to HR Dive, McDonald’s said the company is committed to investigating the allegations at corporate-owned restaurants and that it expects its franchisees to uphold a similar standard.
The fast food chain has been embroiled in controversy regarding its worker culture for some time.
As noted by Fight for $15 in its most recent announcement, McDonald’s has been under scrutiny since at least 2016, though movement has picked up in recent years. In 2020, labor organizations and Fight for $15 filed complaints in multiple countries alleging rampant sexual harassment and gender-based violence at the company. And in July 2021, a federal district court denied McDonald’s motions to dismiss a $500 million class-action lawsuit that alleged "severe or pervasive sexual harassment" of female employees. The court also maintained the lawsuit’s class-action status.
Conflict heated up when former company CEO Steve Easterbrook was removed unceremoniously from his position in 2020 due to allegations that he had a consensual physical relationship with an employee, in violation of company policy. That event prompted its own wildfire of controversy; in August, stockholders sued the company over its handling of the firing, particularly the speed of its investigation into Easterbrook’s behavior before it granted him an exit package.
"We know more work is needed to further our workplace ambitions, which is why all 40,000 McDonald’s restaurants will be assessed and accountable to Global Brand Standards," McDonald’s U.S. said in a statement to HR Dive. "These Global Brand Standards prioritize action in multiple areas, including prevention of harassment, discrimination and retaliation, and ensure everyone understands and acts under a common set of McDonald’s expectations for a safe and respectful workplace in both our company-owned and franchised restaurants."
McDonald’s announced Oct. 19 its corporate stores reached gender pay parity; the announcement only accounts for 7% of store-level employees, however, as 93% of its system is franchised.