Nation & World

McDonald's revamps harassment policy

Fifty lawsuits, complaints have been filed in the past three years

A McDonald’s restaurant in Peru, Ill. (Bloomberg)
A McDonald’s restaurant in Peru, Ill. (Bloomberg)

McDonald’s, in the face of criticism for its handling of harassment complaints, says it is training workers to deal with the issue and is starting a hotline for victims.

In a letter responding to an inquiry from Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D.-Ill., CEO Steve Easterbrook said the company has improved its policy and is committed “to ensuring a harassment and bias-free workplace.”

But pressure is rising for the world’s largest restaurant chain.

Workers and advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the union-backed Fight for $15, announced five new lawsuits earlier this week, along with 20 complaints to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

They accuse the company of failing to prevent misconduct including groping, inappropriate comments from supervisors and retaliation for speaking up.

That brings the total number of lawsuits and complaints over the past three years to more than 50.

The National Organization for Women and the National Women’s Law Center have alleged that workers at McDonald’s stores “face rampant sexual harassment.”

McDonald’s didn’t immediately comment on the new cases.

“We have enhanced our policy so that it more clearly informs employees of their rights, more clearly defines sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation, and provides examples of what unacceptable behavior looks like,” Easterbrook said in the letter dated May 20, which was viewed by Bloomberg News.

The company started working with anti-abuse organization RAINN last year to get recommendations on how to prevent misconduct, according to the letter.

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As part of its updated policy, McDonald’s is offering a third-party hotline and training on harassment and discrimination. Easterbrook said 90 percent of operators and general mangers have taken the training.

McDonald’s will offer training to other crew members on harassment, unconscious bias and workplace safety.

Advocates of workers rights were unpersuaded.

“The majority of our clients allege harassment occurring precisely when the company claims it was making these reforms, and we can find no one who has heard of a new policy or training initiative,” Gillian Thomas, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU, said in a statement Tuesday.

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