Sexual harassment ‘will not be tolerated’ at McDonald’s, its CEO said, after a report detailed claims of harassment against female workers across the US

Chris Kempczinski McDonald's
McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said the company will take action against allegations of sexual harassment.

  • Hundreds of McDonald’s staff have faced sexual harassment at work, senior attorney Gillian Thomas told CBS.
  • One worker told CBS a shift manager called her “ugly” and grabbed her breasts with kitchen tongs.
  • McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said sexual harassment “has no place in any McDonald’s restaurant.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

McDonald’s will take action following allegations of sexual harassment by its staff, its CEO Chris Kempczinski said Sunday, after CBS released a wide-ranging report about the fast-food giant.

Hundreds of female employees have been subjected to sexual harassment at McDonald’s restaurants, resulting in up to 100 lawsuits and discrimination charges, Gillian Thomas, a senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, told CBS. In some cases, the women were as young as 15 years old, she said.

Thomas said that the “food service industry generally is one of the worst for sexual harassment claims.”

CBS Sunday Morning spoke to four women who had filed either discrimination charges or lawsuits against McDonald’s corporate restaurants or franchises. All said that they didn’t recall receiving training on how to report workplace sexual harassment.

In a letter to franchisees, suppliers, and employees on Sunday, Kempczinski said that “sexual harassment in the workplace is an affront to everything we stand for as a system.”

The company was taking the allegations “very seriously,” he said.

“Any person who steps forward to report concerns or issues deserves our utmost respect,” he added.

He said McDonald’s would review its current policies and programs regarding workplace safety, and would define a set of global brand standards later this year, taking into account feedback from employees and franchises.

“Let me say plainly: every single person working under the Arches must have a safe and respectful work environment,” he wrote.

“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.”

Employees say they were verbally and sexually harassed

Jamelia Fairley told CBS a new colleague at the corporate-owned McDonalds she worked at in Florida started making inappropriate comments and touching her in late 2018.

“First he was like, ‘You have nice hair,’ started touching my hair,” Fairley said. “Then he was like, physical; then he actually started grabbing my butt.”

She said he did it to other women, too.

After reporting it to both a supervisor and the general manager, the behavior continued, Fairley said.

“It even got worse, to the point where he pushed me, like, he grabbed me into his groin area,” she told CBS. “Managers were standing there watching him do it, like, and they didn’t do nothing about it.”

The worker was ultimately transferred to another store, Fairley said.

Meanwhile, Eve Cervantez, an employment lawyer, told CBS that a shift manager at a McDonald’s franchise restaurant in Michigan was a “serial predator.”

“He harassed, you know, every woman who was there, basically,” Cervantez, who is suing both McDonald’s and the franchise, said.

Emily Anibal, who began working at that restaurant in 2016 aged 16, told CBS the shift manager made comments or touched a colleague “pretty much every shift, for most of the shift.”

Kat Barber started working at the same restaurant in 2017 aged 18. The same shift manager told her she was “fat,” “ugly,” and “a c***,” she told CBS.

He also sexually harassed her, she said. “The tongs that we used to make the food, he’d use those to, like, grab my breasts,” she said.

Barber said she reported the behavior to the general manager and “normally would either get a laugh, [or] get told that I was being dramatic.”

Anibal and Barber both quit their jobs at the restaurant. Barber said it impacted her personal life and gave her anxiety about whether it would happen again.

McDonald’s told CBS it makes training available to its franchisees and has a hotline available for workers to anonymously express concerns and report harassment.

But former McDonald’s shift leader Delisha Rivers told Insider’s Kate Taylor that she struggled to report harassment to the company after a manager attempted to pressure her into sexual acts in exchange for cash and a raise. Rivers says she called multiple divisions and none were able to offer her assistance.

Insider has contacted McDonald’s for comment.

Florida McDonald’s workers filed a $500 million sexual-harassment lawsuit against the company in 2020, just a year after Michigan McDonald’s workers filed a complaint claiming the fast-food giant failed to address a “systemic problem” of harassment, Insider’s Kate Taylor reported.

Over the past four years, McDonald’s employees have filed more than 50 sexual-harassment complaints.

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