McDonald's Workers File Federal Complaint Alleging Widespread Sexual Harassment

McDonald's employees this week have been demonstrating outside the company's new downtown Chicago headquarters as part of their Fight For $15 campaign to raise wages and expand workers' rights. They held a press conference Tuesday to announce the filing of a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging sexual harassment of McDonald's workers at locations in nine cities. Nation's Restaurant News reports cooks and counter employees say "they were subjected to unwanted advances by superiors that included lewd sexual comments and requests for sex in bathrooms and cars."

The allegations are troubling. A Durham, North Carolina manager is accused of proposing threesomes with employees. In Chicago, a manager allegedly described detailed accounts of "what he would do" if he got two employees alone with him in a bathroom. A 15-year-old employee of a St. Louis McDonald's described her treatment there as "a nightmare." When employees tried to bring these claims to light at their restaurants, Fight For $15 says they were mocked, ignored, or fired. Fight For $15 is also calling for mandatory company-wide training on sexual harassment and the creation of a more effective system for lodging complaints.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Fight For $15 workers brought similar complaints to McDonald's attention two years ago, and the company promised to review them. A company spokesperson declined to comment on whether those complaints led to any internal policy changes.

But McDonald's spokesperson Terri Hickey told NRN that there is no place for sexual harassment or discrimination at its company: "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 EEOC will now have to decide whether to bring a case against McDonald's based on the civil-rights complaints filed with the office. If the EEOC declines to prosecute McDonald's, the workers and Fight For $15 must ask the office for permission to file their own lawsuit. The complaint against McDonald's indicates that the #metoo movement, which has had major repercussions across Hollywood and the restaurant industry, also is gaining ground among employees of more casual restaurants.

"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," the 15-year-old St. Louis McDonald's employee, Breauna Morrow, told NRN.