Fifteen employees from various locations throughout the country have recently filed federal sexual harassment complaints against fast-food giant McDonald’s through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Though the EEOC is legally barred from confirming whether discrimination charges have been filed, a group of workers who are pushing for unionization and higher pay known as “Fight” provided copies of the complaints to the press in order the shed light on this ever-increasing problem; particularly in the food services industry. Each of the complaints provide detailed accounts of troubling instances involving inappropriate sexual harassment and assault.
In one case, a worker named Cycei Monae alleged she was subjected to vile behavior by her manager at the Flint, Michigan, location where she worked. She alleged that while the restaurant provides detailed instructions on how to properly fold a customer’s food bag, they lack in providing suitable disciplinary action against harassment of employees in the workplace. She claims that during her employment, her manager rubbed his genitals against her and tried to grab her butt. She also stated she felt torn about whether or not to report the incident because she needed the job and was afraid she would lose it if she complained about the incident. Deciding she couldn’t stay silent, she said, “I believed McDonald’s had my back and would be horrified by the way I was treated. I was wrong.” She filed her complaint against both the franchise location she worked and the entire McDonald’s USA corporation.
Though not stated whether it was the same Flint, Michigan, location, another complaint filed by Cortez Clerk asserts her shift manager showed her unsolicited pictures of his genitals on his phone and “would regularly rub his genitals against Clerk’s butt or try to grab her butt,” similar to the accusations made by Monae. Another complaint made by Jasmine Bell of Milwaukee, Wisconsin alleges that in addition to vulgar comments directed at her, “on multiple occasions, Bell’s manager… would lean over her when she was bending over so his genitals were pressed against her or in her face when she looked up.”
In a national research study conducted by Hart Research Associates, it was revealed that 40 percent of fast-food workers have experienced some form of sexual harassment while on the job, with 10 percent saying they had been groped, 6 percent saying someone rubbed their genitals on them, and 2 percent saying they had been physically and sexually assaulted or raped. According to food-service workers advocate group Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, “Women restaurant workers often have to tolerate inappropriate comments and sexual harassment while at work in order to ensure their earnings are not impacted negatively and to maintain job security,” which also includes lascivious conduct by customers as well.
In all 15 cases, it is alleged upper management failed to do anything after being told of the employees’ experiences, with some even taking disciplinary action against the workers instead by reducing their shift hours, among other subtle punishments. McDonald’s USA claims to take the safety and well-being of its employees seriously, though the varied lawsuits all make similar claims of abuse and managerial inaction. In response to the cases, McDonald’s spokesperson Terri Hickey said, “At McDonald’s, we and our independent owner-operators share a deep commitment to the respectful treatment of everyone. There is no place for harassment and discrimination of any kind in McDonald’s restaurants or in any workplace. We take any concerns seriously and are reviewing the allegations.”