Women's Groups Urge McDonald's to Improve Harassment Policy

(Bloomberg) -- Women’s advocacy groups say McDonald’s Corp. isn’t doing enough to combat sexual harassment practices, pulling the world’s largest restaurant chain into further scrutiny by the #MeToo movement.

The National Women’s Law Center and National Organization for Women, along with other groups, are publishing a letter to McDonald’s asking the company to enforce its policy prohibiting sexual harassment, and to conduct mandatory manager and worker training on the issue. Other signees include the Women’s March, Moms Rising and Fight for $15.

“You are falling far short of your responsibility,” says the letter, which will be released Thursday online and as a paid ad in the Chicago Tribune. “The people who work behind your cash registers, grills and fryers face rampant sexual harassment.”

The groups will also run advertisements on Crain’s Chicago Business website.

The letter comes just a few days after 10 McDonald’s workers filed sexual harassment complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The legal efforts were organized by the Fight for $15 campaign, a six year-old effort by the Service Employees International Union to organize workers in the mostly non-union fast-food industry. The complaints come before McDonald’s hosts its annual meeting on Thursday.

“There is no place for harassment and discrimination of any kind in our workplace,” Terri Hickey, a spokeswoman for McDonald’s, said in an email. “McDonald’s Corp. takes allegations of sexual harassment very seriously and are confident our independent franchisees who own and operate approximately 90 percent of our 14,000 U.S. restaurants will do the same.”

The Fight for $15 campaign so far has mounted a wide-ranging legal and regulatory challenges to fast-food business models while staging political and public relations attacks and organizing worker walkouts. These efforts have helped spur city and state wage hikes, but haven’t yet secured collective bargaining with McDonald’s or its peers.

NLRB Settlement

In a blow to the group’s ambitions, the National Labor Relations Board in March announced a proposed settlement that would resolve a battery of union-busting allegations against McDonald’s and its franchisees without holding the company legally responsible for the alleged mistreatment of franchised workers.

By highlighting the difficulties faced by women in the fast-food industry, advocacy groups want to open new avenues of attack to force McDonald’s and its peers to improve work conditions.

“Today, McDonald’s has a choice: Be a trailblazer for safe, dignified and fair workplaces for all, or face the rejection of your company by people of conscience,” the groups say in the letter.

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