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McDonald’s expands employee protections against sexual harassment

The chain adds a hotline for anonymous reports after inquiry from senator

McDonald’s Corp. is expanding its policies to protect workers from harassment by adding a hotline for employees to call to file anonymous reports, the company said Monday.

The move came a day before news of more than two dozen new sexual harassment claims and lawsuits against the company. In addition, The New York Times on Tuesday profiled victims alleging sexual harassment as well as retaliation when incidents were reported.

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook on Monday announced the expanded employee protections in a letter to Illinois U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, who had shown concern over the Chicago-based chain’s commitment to ensuring a harassment and bias-free workplace. The company’s new hotline will be available in June, Easterbrook said.

The brand has come under fire in recent years with several workers filing complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. On Tuesday, worker rights group Fight for $15, with support from the ACLU and the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund, brought 25 new EEOC complaints and lawsuits against the company, according to the National Women’s Law Center, which houses the Time’s Up fund. Last year, a handful of workers said they were subjected to unwanted advances by superiors that included lewd sexual comments and requests for sex in bathrooms and cars.

“I share your concern and appreciate your interest and views on this important issue,” Easterbrook told Senator Duckworth in a May 20 letter obtained by Nation’s Restaurant News. “First and foremost, the McDonald’s system has always had an unyielding commitment to providing a safe and respectful work environment for all. Both the company and our owner-operators understand that we must provide a positive experience in the restaurant and create an environment where everyone feels respected and valued.”

In the Dec. 11, 2018 letter, sent to Easterbrook, Duckworth had said that she was alarmed by the number of complaints filed by McDonald’s employees in Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and six other cities.

“These complaints are troubling and reflect an alarming trend about equality and safety in the workplace within the fast food industry,” she said in the letter obtained this week by NRN. “I expect leadership at the McDonald’s Corp. to  take these allegations seriously, thoroughly examine the broader culture and systematic workplace safety problems they reveal and take decisive action to protect employees from harassment.”

Easterbrook said McDonald’s began working with RAINN last year to evolve its policies to ensure that workers feel secure.  RAINN, or Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, is an anti-sexual violence organization that runs the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

“RAINN has been a critical partner in this process by providing employee-centered education for McDonald’s and clear recommendations on how to cultivate a workplace where everyone feels safe, respected and understood,” he said.

To date, he said almost 90% of all McDonald’s operators and general managers have been trained by a third-party on education and guidance on fostering a respectful workplace environment.

“By strengthening our overall policy, creating interactive training, a third-party managed anonymous hotline and importantly, listening to employees across the system, McDonald’s is sending a clear message that we are committed to creating and sustaining a culture of trust where employees feel safe, valued and respected,” Easterbrook said.

Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @FastFoodMaven

Update: May 21, 2019: This story has been updated with additional information about sexual harassment allegations against McDonald's Corp.

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