Groups of female McDonald’s workers participated in a one-day nationwide strike in September, to raise awareness concerning alleged sexual harassment, which has been occurring at some of the company’s franchise locations.
Inspired by the #MeToo Movement, workers from 10 cities walked out of their jobs at lunchtime, to protest McDonald’s handling of sexual misconduct complaints brought by female employees.
Female McDonald’s workers have alleged sexual misconduct by franchise supervisors, who have groped female employees, requested sex, and exposed themselves. Female employees who have attempted to report such harassing behavior contend they have been ignored or punished for their reporting.
In late Spring, ten women filed sexual harassment complaints against McDonald’s with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Organizing Against Sexual Harassment
The recent strike was organized by the Plaintiffs in the EEOC suits, along with the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, and Fight for $15, a labor advocacy group that seeks higher wages for fast food industry workers.
Fight for $15 produced a video, in which female fast food workers describe the hostile working conditions at these restaurants. “Women’s committees,” formed by employees at several McDonald’s franchises, voted in favor of the one-day strike.
Select franchises in the cities of Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Orlando, San Francisco and Durham participated in the lunchtime walkout. At some locations, female workers held silent protests, standing outside with their mouths taped shut. In some cities workers held up signs and chanted on the picket line.
The striking workers sought improved procedures for receiving and responding to sexual harassment complaints, mandatory anti-harassment training for all managers and employees, and the creation of a nationwide committee to address sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Company’s Response
McDonald’s has responded to claims of sexual harassment by highlighting the company’s anti-harassment training programs and policies. The company has asserted it is not a joint employer under federal labor laws, and therefore cannot be held liable for sexual harassment that takes place at independently owned franchises. This labor dispute over the status of McDonald’s as a “joint employer” remains unresolved.
Previous sexual harassment claims against McDonald’s have resulted in substantial settlements. This includes a 2008 agreement with a Colorado franchise to pay over $500,000 to a group of female employees; as well as a 2011 settlement in the amount of $1 million against a Wisconsin McDonald’s, following allegations of sexual misconduct and hostile working conditions for female teenager employees.
First of its Kind
While the #MeToo Movement has shed light on the prevalence of sexual harassment across a wide range of industries, the McDonald’s strike marks the first time a major U.S. company has been a target. McDonald’s has over 14,000 locations across the United States.
Low wage workers, including those in the fast food industry, are the most likely to experience sexual harassment at the workplace. According to research by the Center for American Progress, from 2005 to 2015 over 5,000 sexual harassment claims were filed with the EEOC by low wage earners in the hotel and restaurant industry.
Middletown Employment Discrimination Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Represent Employees and Employers in Workplace Sexual Harassment Matters
If you are involved in an employment discrimination matter, including a claim of workplace sexual harassment, the experienced Middletown employment discrimination lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. are here to help.
Call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, our Marlton office at 856-985-9800, our Newark office at 973-878-9040, or contact us at 888-396-0736 or online for a free consultation. We represent clients throughout New Jersey.