Workers say that many of McDonald’s policies make restaurants more dangerous than they need to be.
A Chicago-area coalition of McDonald’s cooks and cashiers are suing the fast food chain for failing to protect employees from belligerent and dangerous customers.
Time.com reports that the suit was filed in Cook County court by 17 workers from 13 McDonald’s restaurants across Chicago. They claim that the company has, “citywide and nationwide,” done little to shield workers from rampant abuse.
The suit notes that Chicago Police are dispatched to McDonald’s more than 20 times per day. In one incident, a customer beat an employee with a sing; in another, a visitor attacked and urinated on a worker.
“They and their coworkers face a daily risk of violence while at work,” the lawsuit says, claiming that the company has taken inadequate measures “to protect their workers from this risk.”
Attorneys for the workers say the problems go beyond Chicago.
“McDonald’s has failed, at a systematic level, to protect its workers from violence in the workplace,” said attorney Danny Rosenthal, who’s representing the plaintiffs. “Throughout the country, McDonald’s workers are regularly threatened, assaulted, and injured by customers.”
While McDonald’s didn’t address the suit’s specific allegations, it did issue a statement reiterating its approach to workplace safety.
“McDonald’s takes seriously its responsibility to provide and foster a safe working environment for our employees, and along with our franchisees, continue to make investments in training programs that uphold safe environments for customers and crew members,” McDonald’s said.
However, the suit contends that some of McDonald’s policies have actually made restaurants more dangerous. For instance, alternately lowering and removing “physical barriers at check-out counters” has made it easier for “dangerous customers” to attack workers. The suit also claims that McDonald’s has forgone the “recommended practice” of designing drive-through windows in such a way that disgruntled customers can’t crawl through them.
Perhaps to ensure productivity, McDonald’s also prohibits employees from locking bathroom doors when they’re sent inside to clean them. The suit says that decision opens workers to sexual assault. One plaintiff, says Time.com, “was cleaning inside the men’s bathroom when men entered and exposed themselves to her in a sexual manner.”
Several other female plaintiffs made similar claims, all saying such incidences could’ve been prevented if McDonald’s simply let workers lock bathroom doors.
National Public Radio notes that the lawsuit is one of many targeting the fast food company for various alleged abuses and oversights.
In the past and through the present, McDonald’s has tried to dodge legal responsibility by placing blame on its franchisees. While courts have upheld some of McDonald’s claims—in October, a judge found that its corporate decision-makers don’t exert enough influence over franchisees to be considered joint owners—lawsuits have been mounting.
As NPR reports, another lawsuit targeting McDonald’s alleges similar safety issues, including an overall lack of corporate response to claims of sexual assault and misconduct by managers.