Fresh sexual harassment allegations against McDonald’s Restaurants

Just months after fast food giant McDonalds signed a legal agreement with the equalities watchdog regarding the protection of staff, over one hundred current and former employees have now spoken out about racism, sexual harassment, and homophobia in the organisation.

The BBC conducted an investigation, and this has revealed that many of the staff at McDonalds were regularly groped and sexually harassed with management turning a blind eye. Most of the culprits were young people.

Earlier this year McDonalds Restaurants signed a Section 23 agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). This agreement was set in place to protect workers from sexual harassment. McDonalds is one of the largest private sector employers in the UK.

The agreement included conducting anonymous surveys regarding safety in the workplace, enhancing certain policies to prevent sexual harassment, a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment, and the improvement of responses to every complaint. 

Further, the agreement set out the introduction of training which would help managers identify risk areas and take steps to prevent sexual harassment. 

After the BBC spoke to over one hundred staff members, they discovered a staggering number of cases which had not been addressed. There were thirty-one allegations of sexual assault, seventy-eight of sexual harassment, eighteen of racism, six of homophobia. Many staff members told the BBC that the management was responsible for harassment and assaults.

A confidential email hotline has now been set up by the EHRC as it is concerned to hear of the new allegations.

These new allegations will be looked at closely in the context of the agreement they have with McDonalds, which was to tackle sexual harassment of all staff in every restaurant in the company.

McDonalds has 1,450 restaurants in the UK, with almost 180,000 people working there. Almost 90% of all McDonalds are franchises with 75% of all employees under the age of twenty-five. Many have staff who are teenagers in their first jobs.

Of the under eighteen-year-old staff who were questioned allegations included:

  • A comment from a senior colleague who made a racial slur when he commented that he would like to show a female staff member his penis and make a ‘black and white’ baby with her.

  • A former employee who told how a senior manager had choked her, another who had grabbed her bottom, and a shift manager had sent her sexual images.

  • An employee whose manager suggested they perform sex acts in exchange for vapes.

  • A manager who preyed on young females who had just started, some as young as 16 years of age to pressure them into having sex with him. 

One account of racism was heard from a worker originally from India who said that the crew members spoke in ‘gibberish’ to imitate her. They also called her Pakistani colleague a terrorist.

One female worker said that she was seen as ‘fresh meat’ when she began with the company. Her and other female employees were forced to wear uniforms that were too tight.

When asked about the allegations in the company Alistair Macrow, chief executive of McDonalds UK and Ireland stated that there was ‘no place for harassment, discrimination, or abuse in the company.

‘Every single person who works for the company deserves to work in a safe, inclusive, and respectful place.’ These instances are clearly where the company had fallen short and for that he apologised deeply.

Mr Macrow went on to say that they would be investigating all the allegations brought forward and all proven breaches in the company code of conduct will be dealt with using the most severe measures they could legally impose. This included instant dismissal.

McDonalds took to social media by asking if people would DM them with more details so that they could investigate immediately.

Mr Macrow said that over 2,000 managers had completed the ‘full awareness training’ and he felt that most teams were now working within the new protections to provide a safe and respectful workplace.

Chairwoman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Baroness Kishwer Falkner said that every organisation should have a zero-tolerance policy to sexual harassment. 

She remained extremely concerned at the new reports of harassment in McDonalds, particularly because there is already a legal agreement in place regarding safe places to work.

Every employer, no matter how big or small, is responsible for the protection of its workforce. The EHRC is determined to continue to crack down on illegal harassment in the workplace. 

Partner at the law firm Bolt Burden Kemp, Thomas Beale stated that the allegations about McDonalds are clearly very disturbing, and the company should be held accountable for the appalling treatment of the staff.

‘The company needs to implement significant and widespread changes to eradicate the toxic culture. McDonalds also needs to apologise to all the workers who have suffered harassment in the workplace. Clearly those at the top have allowed the culture to develop.’

BFAWU general secretary Sarah Woodley stated that the allegations were shocking.

A spokesperson from McDonalds said that the company apologised deeply and that after saying in February this year that it had a strong track record in the area, they admitted that they had fallen short.


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