McDonald’s employees in 10 cities across the U.S. were scheduled to walk off the job Tuesday to demand better protections against sexual harassment.
“The walkout is believed to be the first U.S. strike to confront sexual harassment in more than 100 years,” according to advocacy group Fight for $15, which is coordinating the event.
In May, Fight for $15 workers filed complaints against McDonald’s with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC. Workers in nine cities described situations where cooks and cashiers were subjected to unwanted advances by superiors that included lewd sexual comments and requests for sex in bathrooms and cars. A minor also said she was ignored when she complained about another worker repeatedly harassing her by using graphic, sexual language.
In a statement, McDonald’s said the company has “strong policies, procedures and training in place specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment.
“To ensure we are doing all that can be done, we have engaged experts in the areas of prevention and response, including RAINN, to evolve our policies so everyone who works at McDonald’s does so in a secure environment every day,” the statement continued.
RAINN, an acronym for the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network is an anti-sexual violence organization that runs the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
Fight for $15 officials, however, said McDonald’s is not doing enough. Striking workers are demanding the fast-food giant hold mandatory trainings and implement a reporting system for sexual harassment.
The pro-labor group, which routinely stages walkouts to fight for better employee wages, said workers also want McDonald’s to form a committee to address the sexual harassment. They said the panel should be made up of workers, corporate and franchise representatives and leaders of national women’s groups.
“This committee would chart a path forward to make sure nobody who works for McDonald’s faces sexual harassment on the job,” Fight for $15 said.
One of those employees making demands is Tanya Harrell, a McDonald’s worker from Louisiana. She is one of several workers, mostly female, expected to strike Tuesday.
“It’s sad that we have to walk off the job in order to be treated with respect at McDonald’s, but we’re not going to stay quiet while the company ignores the harassment we’re facing,” Harrell said in a statement. “McDonald’s has a responsibility to provide a safe place to work, and we’re going to keep speaking out until the company hears our calls for change.”
In Harrell’s May complaint filed against McDonald’s operator Jamjomar Inc. in Louisiana, she said she felt “helpless” after supervisors ignored her complaints about an employee touching her constantly without her consent.
“It made me feel uncomfortable, embarrassed and afraid at work,” she stated.
The #MeToo movement has triggered sexual harassment victims across the restaurant industry to speak out about improper behavior in the workplace.
This week, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Del Taco, accusing the Lake Forest, Calif.-based chain of ignoring complaints of store supervisors sexually harassing female employees, including teenagers.
Complaints have not been limited to fast food. Celebrity chefs and high-profile restaurateurs accused of sexual harassment include John Besh, Mario Batali, Mike Isabella and Ken Friedman.
Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter: @FastFoodMaven