More than 100 current and former UK employees of the fast-food business McDonald’s have made allegations about a poisonous culture of sexual assault, harassment, racism, and bullying.
The BBC was informed that groping and harassment of employees, some of whom are as young as 17, occurs frequently.
The UK equality watchdog announced the opening of a new email hotline after expressing “concerned” over the BBC’s results.
McDonald’s stated that it “deeply apologized” for having “fallen short.”
It further stated that every employee deserved to work in a setting that was secure, civil, and welcoming.
Following the company’s signing of a legally binding agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in which it promised to safeguard its employees from sexual harassment, the BBC started looking into the working conditions at McDonald’s in February.
McDonald’s argued at the time that “We already have a strong track record in this area.”
But the results of our analysis paint a quite different picture.
We contacted McDonald’s employees over a five-month period to learn about their employment there. 31 sexual assault complaints and 78 sexual harassment claims were among the more than 100 claims made by employees with whom we spoke.
Additionally, 18 claims of racism and 6 claims of homophobia were made.
This article contains disturbing material.
A 17-year-old working in Cheshire claims a 20-year-old coworker called her a racial insult, demanded to show her his penis, and declared his desire to have a “black and white” child with her.
a former employee who was 17 years old when a senior manager choked and grabbed her bottom in a Plymouth restaurant. Additionally, a shift supervisor emailed her pornographic pictures.
a Hampshire boss who recommended that a 16-year-old male employee engage in sexual activity in exchange for cigarettes
a restaurant manager who preyed on 16-year-old new female employees and attempted to pressure them into having sex
At an Aberdeen branch, a woman said she was called a racial slur and the target of racist remarks.
a present employee in Essex who claims to have experienced antisemitic abuse
A current employee in Oxfordshire who claims crew members imitated her by speaking in “gibberish” and calling a Pakistani coworker a terrorist
At a branch in Wales, male managers and staff members were making jokes about placing money bets on who would have sex with a new hire first.
An outbreak of gonorrhea in a Northern Ireland branch where staff members frequently engaged in sexual relations
Employees at many McDonald’s locations in the UK have said that supervisors there are to blame for the harassment and violence.
Senior supervisors are frequently accused of not responding to complaints.
Listen: Is McDonald’s a bad location for teenagers to hang out?
MeToo hasn’t helped the young employees at McDonald’s.
What constitutes workplace sexual harassment?
Employees have reportedly informed the BBC of illegal sexual interactions between managers and less senior employees.
Young women have reported feeling continuously scrutinized for their appearance.
One current employee claimed that when she first arrived at her branch in Nottingham, her male coworkers viewed her as “fresh meat.” Other female employees claimed that bosses made them wear uniforms that were too small for them.
Boys in the kitchen, gals on the counter, as the phrase goes at McDonald’s. Putting attractive people in the front is the aim, explained Lucy, a 22-year-old working in Norwich.
The 20-year-old Emily continued, “It’s the expectation that you will be harassed if you work at McDonald’s.” She left her branch in Brighton last year after becoming uncomfortable with a male coworker in his 60s who kept touching her hair in a provocative manner.
One of the biggest employers in the private sector in the UK is McDonald’s. More than 170,000 people are employed by the massive fast-food chain’s 1,450 outlets.
Its workforce is also among the youngest in the nation. Its workforce is made up of 75% people between the ages of 16 and 25. It is frequently their first employment.
Since McDonald’s operates under a franchise structure, which permits individual operators to run the restaurants and hire the staff, the majority of employees are not directly employed by the firm.
‘I went to work in fear’
When Shelby began working at a McDonald’s in Berkshire last year, she was only 16 years old.
She said that older male coworkers would utilize the kitchen’s crowded design as a pretext to inappropriately touch subordinate female staff members.
She stated, “They’d grope stomachs, waists, and buttocks. Every shift I worked, at least one of the following occurred: a comment, a hand brushing across my body, or a more severe incident in which my bum or hips were grabbed.
Managers specifically “warned” young employees to avoid one man in his 50s, according to Shelby.
Would you attempt to stop sexual harassment or report it?
She claimed that on one occasion last summer, she was waiting in line at the front desk when he approached from behind and pulled her against his groin.
“I just froze,” she remarked. “I was repulsed,”
Shelby claims that after informing high management about the situation in the store, nothing was done. She said it was a “toxic work environment” in her resignation email.
McDonald’s stated that it was “deeply sorry” to learn about Shelby’s ordeal. It also said that it was looking into why any complaints she expressed at the time weren’t formally escalated.
Managers that fail to see
We are unsure of how many of the employees with whom we spoke filed formal complaints. But several of them assured us that they did, only to have their claims dismissed.
She first brought up the situation of 17-year-old Chinyere in Cheshire, who had been subjected to racist and sexual harassment by a considerably older man, with a female colleague who was in charge of employee welfare. She instructed her to disregard the man’s actions and resume her work. Chinyere confided in her stepfather after experiencing harassment for several months, and he wrote to the franchise, corporate headquarters, and the police.
Then the man was let go. Chinyere thinks that nothing would have occurred if her stepfather hadn’t stepped in. Her experiences were described as “abhorrent and unacceptable” by McDonald’s, which also offered a sincere apology. It claimed that the man was fired three days after the matter came to its attention as a result of quick action. It takes a lot of guts to speak up, and as soon as we learned about the circumstance, the individual in question was given access to both internal and independent external support, they continued.
Another employee in Birmingham, who claims that when she was 19, a male coworker struck her in the bottom, promptly reported it to her manager. She was forced to work with him despite the fact that it was caught on camera and she had a noticeable bruise, which made her feel so uncomfortable that she eventually left.
Additionally, a number of employees claimed that rather than being dismissed when complaints were made about management, they were simply transferred to another McDonald’s location within the same franchise.
According to other workers, they didn’t complain because they couldn’t risk losing their jobs. Young employees at McDonald’s frequently work under zero-hour contracts, which means their schedules are flexible but also that they are subject to the rotas set by shift management.
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How to respond if you’ve experienced sexual harassment at work
Declare it: Charity According to Victim Support, you can inform your management, an HR representative, or your union, and they will take appropriate action.
Make a note: Include the dates, times, and specifics of what occurred along with any pertinent correspondence. These can be useful if you decide to file a report.
Get aid: A free and private live chat service and 24-hour helpline are run by Victim Support. Use the live chat feature at victimsupport.org.uk/live-chat or dial 0808 16 89 111.
Make a police call: You should contact the police by dialing 101 if sexual harassment turns into violence, threats, or sexual assault. Call 999 if you are in danger.
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‘Not taken seriously’ is training.
McDonald’s promised “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment and to provide training for staff members in the February deal.
However, employees have complained to the BBC that bosses do not take the training seriously.
During the harassment training film, one employee reportedly perched an iPad next to a McFlurry machine and sped through it while he was preparing beverages.
Every business should have a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and should safeguard its employees, according to Baroness Kishwer Falkner, head of the EHRC.
Global criticism of McDonald’s culture has been leveled. It is dealing with multimillion dollar lawsuits in the US made by accusing workers of sexual harassment.
After it was discovered that Steve Easterbrook had inappropriate consensual relationships with McDonald’s employees, he was ousted as the company’s CEO in 2019.
The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) claims to have received 1,000 complaints about alleged sexual harassment at McDonald’s in the UK five years ago. Because some instances were resolved utilizing confidentiality restrictions, there may not have been much coverage of the allegations at the time.
The fresh charges discovered by the BBC, according to Sarah Woolley, general secretary of the BFAWU, are “shocking.”
There is “simply no place for harassment, abuse, or discrimination” in the business, according to Alistair Macrow, chief executive of McDonald’s UK & Ireland.
Every one of McDonald’s UK’s 177,000 workers deserves to work in a setting that is secure, civil, and welcoming. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this has caused. There are undoubtedly times when we have gone short.
We will look into every claim that is made, and we will take the most serious legal action we are able to, up to and including dismissal, for any violations of our code of conduct that are found to have occurred.
More than 2,000 managers, according to Mr. Macrow, had successfully completed full awareness training, and the majority of restaurant teams were now utilizing the new safeguards that are intended to ensure “a safe and respectful workplace.” He continued by saying that the business has strict policies in place to guarantee workplace safety and dignity everywhere it operates.