Cashiers and cooks employed by McDonald’s in nine cities have filed 10 sexual harassment charges against the fast food chain with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The charges were officially announced today (May 22) via a press conference in front of the company’s Chicago corporate headquarters.
The charges were filed by employees in Chicago, Detroit, Durham, Kansas City (Missouri), Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Orlando and St. Louis. Of the ten charges, one involves a 15-year-old girl who worked as a cashier in St. Louis and alleges she was subjected to repeated graphic sexual language from her co-worker. She said that when she spoke up about it, her supervisors did nothing.
“McDonald’s advertises all over television saying it’s ‘America’s best first job,’ but my experience has been a nightmare,” said the teen, Breauna Morrow, in an emailed statement. “I know I’m not the only one and that’s why I’m speaking out, so others don’t have to face the harassment I’ve gone through.”
Other cases involve repeated harassment that went unpunished. A New Orleans employee says her co-worker groped her, and another tried to sexually assault her in the bathroom. A worker in Chicago was asked by her manager “how many dicks” she could take, per the charges. A woman in Durham was reportedly asked to have a threesome with a manager.
McDonald’s spokesperson Terri Hickey responded to the claims in an email to CBS News, saying there’s “no place for harassment and discrimination of any kind [in the workplace]. McDonald’s Corporation takes allegations of sexual harassment very seriously and are confident our independent franchisees who own and operate approximately 90 percent of our 14,000 U.S. restaurants will do the same.”
The legal effort was organized by Fight for $15, which works to raise pay for lower wage- or minimum-wage earning people. The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund is providing financial support. “By funding the legal representation in these cases, we hope to help ensure that these charges will be a catalyst for significant change,” said Sharyn Tejani, director of the Legal Defense Fund, in the emailed statement. “Few women working in low-wage jobs have the means or the financial security to challenge sexual harassment.”
More from that statement:
The workers are demanding McDonald’s effectively implement and enforce the zero-tolerance policy against sexual harassment outlined in its manual and in its franchisees’ policies. They’re also calling on the company to hold mandatory trainings for managers and employees and to create a safe and effective system for receiving and responding to complaints.
In addition to the sexual harassment charges filed against McDonald’s, an employee in Durham, North Carolina, alleges that she was also discriminated against because she is Black. She said her shift manager was rude to Black workers, calling them “ghetto.” And when she reported a customer who made a racist remark to her (calling her “burnt” and commenting on lynching), her supervisor laughed, as described in the filed charges.
In 2014, the NAACP passed a resolution that stated that of the four million fast food workers in America, people of color were “disproportionately represented and especially concentrated in the lowest paying jobs.” As Colorlines previously reported, McDonald’s pays its United States workers so little that in 2013, the National Employment Law Project found that crew members rely on public assistance programs to survive.
A 2016 survey by Hart Research Associates found that 40 percent of female-identified fast food workers experienced unwanted sexual behavior on the job. Of these women, 42 percent surveyed believed they must accept this behavior to keep their jobs. For those who did file a report, 21 percent said that their supervisor punished them, either by cutting their hours, rescheduling them to more difficult shifts or denying them raises.
Two years ago, McDonald’s workers working with Fight for $15 filed a series of sexual harassment charges against the company. Says Adriana Alvarez, a McDonald’s employee from Chicago and member of the Fight for $15 National Organizing Committee in a press statement, “The #MeToo movement may have changed things for actresses in Hollywood, but these new charges show that sexual harassment is still on the menu at McDonald’s.”