McDonalds Under Fire for Harassment, Bullying & Racism

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McDonalds Claims
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More than 100 current and recent McDonalds staff have recently come forward to spread awareness of the toxic culture of sexual assault, harassment, racism and bullying in UK outlets.

The UK equality watchdog recently shared concerning findings workers as young as 17, were being groped and harassed routinely.

The BBC began investigations into McDonalds in February of 2023 shortly after the company signed a legally binding agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). In this, McDonalds pledged to protect their staff from sexual harassment. McDonalds insisted at the time that they “already have a strong track record in this area.”

Despite McDonald’s claims, the investigation revealed worrying findings.

During a span of five months, Watchdog conducted interviews with McDonald’s employees to gather insights into their work experiences. From their discussions with over 100 individuals, they documented reports of:

  • 31 cases of sexual assault.
  • 78 instances of sexual harassment.
  • 18 allegations related to racism.
  • 6 allegations of homophobia.

Caroline Nokes, the Tory chair of the women and equalities select committee, said: “Like so many cases, this isn’t just about sex, it’s about power. It’s about older managers exploiting what is, at McDonald’s, a very young workforce.”

McDonald’s said it had “fallen short” and it “deeply apologised”.

It added that all employees deserved to work in a safe, respectful, and inclusive workplace.

McDonalds Claims

BBC’s Watchdog has uncovered a vast array of claims against McDonalds. The claims cover a range of employment claims such as discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying and racism.

For example:

  • A woman was called a slur word and subject to racist “jokes” at the Aberdeen branch.
  • A current worker in Essex states she faced antisemitic abuse.
  • A current worker in Oxfordshire, originally from India, states crew members spoke in “gibberish” to imitate her and called a Pakistani colleague a terrorist.

You can read more of the claims the BBC has collected here.

In many of the cases, workers informed Watchdog that the managers at the outlets were responsible for the harassment and assaults. In addition, often senior managers are said to have failed to act on any complaints made.

Staff have told the BBC that sexual relationships can take place between managers and more junior members of staff. This is against company policy.

Additionally, young women are described feeling constantly judged by their appearance. For example, one worker said she was seen by her male colleagues as “fresh meat” when she started in the Nottingham branch. Other female workers were forced to wear uniform that was too small for them. Lucy, 22 from Norwich, states that the more attractive staff are put on the tills.

“It’s the expectation that if you work at McDonald’s, you will be harassed,” added Emily, who’s 20. Emily left her branch in Brighton last year after a male colleague in his 60s kept stroking her hair in a sexually suggestive leaving her uncomfortable.

A Young Workforce

McDonald’s stands as one of the UK’s major private-sector employers. McDonalds has a vast workforce of over 170,000 individuals distributed across 1,450 restaurants.

Notably, Mcdonalds has one of the youngest workforces in the country. Approximately three-quarters of its employees fall within the age range of 16 to 25. For many of them, this job marks their first entry into the workforce.

It’s important to mention that most of these workers are not directly employed by McDonald’s itself. Instead, the fast-food chain operates through a franchise system, wherein individual operators obtain licenses to manage the outlets and hire their own staff.

Having a predominantly young workforce, especially with many employees in their first job, may increase the likelihood of certain employment-related issues arising. Young workers may be more vulnerable or less aware of their rights, leading to potential concerns regarding fair treatment, wages, or workplace safety.

Additionally, operating through a franchise system means that individual restaurant owners are responsible for managing their outlets and employing staff. Consequently this decentralized structure could lead to inconsistencies in how employees are treated, with variations in labor practices, policies, and management styles.

Furthermore, the sheer scale of operations can make it challenging for the company to monitor and address every situation effectively.

Ignoring McDonalds Claims

The exact count of workers who made formal complaints among those interviewed remains uncertain. However, several individuals disclosed that they indeed filed complaints, but unfortunately, their grievances were disregarded and went unanswered.

Furthermore, some workers revealed that when complaints were lodged against managers, instead of termination, they were simply transferred from one McDonald’s restaurant within the franchise to another.

Some employees chose not to voice their grievances, as they feared the possibility of losing their jobs. Many young staff members at McDonald’s are often on zero-hours contracts, granting flexibility in their work hours but also making them vulnerable to the decisions of shift managers who control their schedules.

Managers Disregarding Training

Under the February agreement, McDonald’s made a commitment of “zero tolerance” toward sexual harassment and vowed to provide training for its employees.

However, according to reports from staff members, managers seem to be not taking the training seriously. One employee even shared an incident where employers placed an iPad next to a McFlurry machine. Their employer rushed them through the harassment training video while attending to other tasks.

Baroness Kishwer Falkner, the chairwoman of the EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission), emphasized that every company should adopt a policy of zero tolerance towards sexual harassment and take measures to safeguard its workforce.

Longstanding History of McDonalds Claims

This is not the first time McDonalds has come under fire for sexual harassment claims.  Previously, McDonald’s culture has faced scrutiny globally. In the US McDonalds is facing multimillion dollar lawsuits brought by employees over sexual harassment allegations.

Furthermore, Mcdonald’s chief executive, Steve Easterbrook, was fired in 2019. This was after it was revealed he had inappropriate consensual relationships with his employees.

Five years ago, reports of sexual harassment at McDonald’s emerged in the UK. The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) claims to have received 1,000 complaints. However, at that time, there was minimal public reporting on these allegations, potentially due to some cases being resolved through the use of confidentiality clauses.

Comments from Alistair Macrow, Chief Executive of McDonalds UK & Ireland

Mr. Macrow states there was “simply no place for harassment, abuse, or discrimination” at the company.

“Every one of the 177,000 employees in McDonald’s UK deserves to work in a safe, respectful and inclusive workplace. There are clearly instances where we have fallen short and for that we deeply apologise.”

“We will investigate all allegations brought to us, and all proven breaches of our code of conduct will be met with the most severe measures we can legally impose, up to and including dismissal.”

According to Mr. Macrow, over 2,000 managers have successfully undergone comprehensive awareness training, and the majority of restaurant teams have now integrated the new safeguards, all geared towards fostering “a safe and respectful workplace.” Additionally, he emphasized that McDonald’s has implemented rigorous regulations to ensure the safety and respectfulness of its workplaces across the globe.

Legal Guidance for Workplace Claims

If you have experienced any of the issues above, we are here to support you, making sure you get fair compensation.

Our solicitors work on a no-win, no-fee basis in all our employment law cases. This means that you don’t need to worry about any of the financial implications of making a claim.

If you think you have experienced any of the issues in this article, please contact one of our solicitors. We can assess your case in more detail and help you understand what your options are.

Furthermore, if you choose to bring a claim against your employer we will be by your side throughout the process. Our solicitors will support you, ensuring that you get the full compensation you are entitled to.

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