Employees of McDonald’s in 10 American cities will walk out of work Tuesday to protest what they call the chain’s failure to address sexual harassment claims.
The event will be the first ever multistate strike in the U.S. against sexual harassment in the workplace, according to organizers.
In May, a group of 10 current and former female McDonald’s employees, some teenagers, filed sexual harassment complaints against the fast-food chain. The female employees said they were sexually harassed verbally, groped, or propositioned by their supervisors, and when they reported such behavior, their allegations were ignored or mocked. Some of the complainants even said their supervisors retaliated against them.
McDonald’s operations and training manual asserts a zero tolerance policy “for any form of sexual harassment of any employee.” “Sexual harassment is prohibited because it may be intimidating, an abuse of power, and is consistent with McDonald’s policies, practices, and management philosophy.”
The striking employees demand that the company implement and enforce its own policy against sexual harassment, hold mandatory trainings for managers and employees, and establish a safe and effective reporting system for employees.
They’re also demanding that McDonald’s Corp. sever ties with Seyfarth Shaw LLP, a Chicago-based firm that the company retained as defense against employees’ harassment complaints. Seyfarth Shaw is also currently defending the Weinstein Co. against a racketeering class action complaint alleging that the company was complicit in Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct.
The legal complaints against McDonald’s were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with support from Fight for $15, an advocacy group pushing for a higher minimum wage in the fast-food industry. TIME’S UP legal defense fund, which was set up amid the cascade of sexual abuse, assault and discrimination allegations that began almost one year ago to the day, also contributed resources.
TIME’S UP also helped coordinate Tuesday’s strike, which is expected to take at lunchtime in cities including Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, and Kansas City, Missouri.
The legal action against McDonald’s and Tuesday’s protest signals what many consider a long-overdue reckoning for the fast food industry and its sexual harassment problem. Two in five women working in the fast food industry reported experiencing some kind of harassment while on the job, according to a survey released in Oct. 2016.
“The #MeToo movement may have changed things for actresses in Hollywood, but these new charges show that sexual harassment is still on the menu at McDonald’s,” Adriana Alvarez, a McDonald’s worker from Chicago and member of the Fight for 15 National Organizing Committee, said in a statement earlier this year. “With support from the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, workers in the Fight for $15 now have a powerful ally in our ongoing effort to make McDonald’s restaurants safe places for all workers.”
Cover image: This Aug. 8, 2018, photo shows an employee working at McDonald's flagship restaurant in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)