On Tuesday May 21, two days before the McDonald's annual shareholder meeting, 25 women announced they had filed lawsuits or complaints against the fast food giant, claiming they were sexually harassed while working there, according to The New York Times.
The filings allegedly involved incidents at McDonald's restaurants and corporate offices across the country. Some of the women who have come forward were as young as 16 years old, and faced alleged behavior that included groping, propositions for sex, and indecent exposure by supervisors.
These new charges come as part of a multi-year effort by workers to fight harassment and improper labor conditions, including inadequate wages. The American Civil Liberties Unioin and Time's Up have supported many of the workers who filed on Tuesday, and are shedding much-needed light on how deeply embedded these issues are.
Though sexual harassment is present across industries, it is especially rampant in the fast-food industry. According to a 2016 survey, 40% of female fast-food workers experienced unwanted sexual advances at work. The survey also revealed that as many as 42% of these women did not feel they could speak up about misconduct because they can't afford to lose their job. And though McDonald's has previously spoken out about sexual harassment, these new claims suggest the corporation hasn't done enough to address these problems.
"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,” said Gillian Thomas, senior staff attorney for the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, in a press release obtained by Refinery29. “The company has yet to commit to meting out consequences for stores, whether corporate-owned or franchised, where harassment continues to flourish.”
One former employee, Brittany Hoyos, told the Times she was harassed and touched by a manager who, on at least one occasion, attempted to kiss her. Afterward, Hoyos and her family complained to a supervisor. She was later was demoted and eventually fired. Hoyos is just one of 25 women who are now speaking out about this behavior.
This isn't the first time McDonald's workers have spoken out about these sorts of issues. In September 2018, McDonald's workers across the U.S. went on strike in protest of sexual harassment.
This story is still developing, but it's clear that this wave of complaints are meant to hold the company accountable for developing better policies that protect its workers.
“These brave McDonald’s employees are only the latest to come forward and put the company on notice that sexual harassment pervades its culture," Thomas said. “McDonald’s refuses to take responsibility for harassment experienced by employees in its restaurants. With this new round of filings, we are seeking relief for them while calling on shareholders to call the company’s management to account.”
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