Sexual harassment can happen in any work environment. There are no companies immune to harassment, and that includes the world’s most recognizable brands.
Recently, 15 McDonald’s employees across 8 states filed complaints against the company with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for sexual harassment they claim occurred while they were at work.
The Huffington Post reported that cashiers and cooks filed complaints against the fast-food company over the last month. The group consists of mostly women, but also includes men who allegedly endured harassment based on their sexual orientation. The employees also say they brought the harassment to the attention of their managers, but that their complaints were ignored. In some instances, it was a manager or supervisor taking part in the abuse.
Among the complaints are stories of lewd comments and sexual advances, inappropriate touching and offers of money in exchange for sexual favors (known as “quid pro quo” sexual harassment). Many of the workers are paid at the minimum wage, and mentioned that they felt like they had to keep quiet or were told that the abuse was their fault. In some instances, employees who complained saw their hours reduced.
Holding McDonald’s accountable
Most McDonald’s locations are franchises. In the past, the owner of the individual franchise would have been held responsible if an employee was sexually harassed in the workplace. However, due to the NLRB’s 2015 decision in Browning-Ferris, McDonald’s, the second largest employer in America, may face liability for the discriminatory acts of its franchisees.
The employees who filed the complaint say they are not looking for monetary damages, but want to see McDonald’s enforce their no-tolerance for harassment policy. The employees also want to unionize.
A widespread problem
The story also says this isn’t just a problem at McDonald’s. Harassment is a widespread problem in the fast food industry. According to one survey, 40 percent of women working in the fast food industry reported being sexually harassed, and 42 percent of those who experienced harassment in the workplace said they needed to accept the harassment because they couldn’t risk losing their jobs.
The stories of these McDonald’s employees shows how widespread sexual harassment is in the workplace and how important it is for employees to speak out and hold their employers accountable for their unlawful actions.