McDonald’s, the fast food restaurant chain, is the second-largest private employer in the world. In the United States, franchisees operate the vast majority of its 14,000 locations. Last month, the company came under fire when over two dozen workers, past and present, filed complaints alleging sexual harassment and retaliation in court and with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This month, eight U.S. senators, including one from California, urged the company’s CEO to require franchisees to adopt updated anti-harassment policies in response.
The complaints described incidents of indecent exposure, groping and verbal harassment in great detail. They also alleged retaliation against those who made the reports. The letter from the senators expressed concern that the fast food chain’s activities, policies and procedures fail to provide a safe work environment. They reportedly reached this conclusion on the basis of public statements and documents.
The letter criticizes McDonald’s for merely offering resources and encouraging franchise owners to adopt policies rather than requiring the adoption of policies against abuse, harassment and retaliation. The senators draw a contrast between this and meticulous requirements regarding food preparation techniques, granular tasks, etc. that the company imposes on franchisees.
The letter asks for specifics about how McDonald’s plans to investigate harassment, abuse and misconduct claims in the future. Four of the eight senators who sent the letter are currently presidential candidates, including the one from California.
Survivors of sexual harassment in the workplace may feel powerless in the face of their employers. It may be helpful to discuss the possibility of legal recourse with an attorney.