McDonald’s Corp. has ordered a review of its workplace-safety policies and programs following a “CBS Sunday Morning” report of sexual harassment allegations at a number of U.S. units.
“We intend to understand current best practices, solicit the input of franchisees and crew, and define a set of global brand standards that we can communicate later this year,” wrote Chris Kempczinski, McDonald’s CEO, in an open letter posted Sunday on McDonald's website.
Kempczinski said he had asked for a review of workplace-safety policies and programs across the global system by four members of the brand’s executive team: Joe Erlinger, president of McDonald’s USA; Ian Borden, president of McDonald’s international; Heidi Capozzi, global chief people officer; and Katie Fallon, chief global impact officer.
“Far from shying away from them, in the case of the sexual harassment allegations detailed in the ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ story, I want to recognize these individuals and acknowledge their courage,” Kempczinski said. “Any person who steps forward to report concerns or issues deserves our utmost respect.”
The CBS report chronicled women who had either filed discrimination charges or sued McDonald’s corporate restaurants or those of franchisees.
The stories outlined “persistent and unwanted harassment from male co-workers,” the report noted.
Emily Anibal told CBS that a male manager “would make comments on my body, and other workers' bodies, saying, like, 'I would have sex with you, I wouldn't have sex with her.’”
Kat Barber said, "Any woman that he could get his hands on or be near, he was taking advantage of that moment."
Barber added that the fellow employee would use kitchen equipment as part of the harassment. "The tongs that we used to make the food, he'd use those to, like, grab my breasts,” Barber said, adding: "He didn't try to hide it at all. It was in front of everybody."
Gillian Thomas, a senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in the report, "It is hard to believe that, in this day and age, that it's still happening this egregiously, this out in the open."
Kempczinski, in his statement, said: “Let me say plainly: every single person working under the Arches must have a safe and respectful work environment. Sexual harassment in the workplace is an affront to everything we stand for as a system. It has no place in any McDonald’s restaurant, and it will not be tolerated.”
In 2019, McDonald’s expanded its policies for dealing with sexual harassment in its corporate stores, adding a hotline for employees to call to file anonymous reports.
The Chicago-based franchisor has faced earlier claims regarding policies at both its corporate-owned and franchised units.
The CBS story followed on the heels of a lawsuit in February in which retired Major League Baseball player Herbert Washington, a Black franchise operator, alleged McDonald’s steered him toward less profitable restaurants in lower-income neighborhoods.
Washington’s lawsuit also alleged McDonald's reduced advertising to Black communities, impacting sales at his franchised units. McDonald’s denied the allegations.
As of Dec. 31, McDonald’s had about 39,000 locations in more than 100 countries. About 93% of McDonald’s restaurants worldwide are owned and operated by franchisees.
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