McDonald’s toxic workplace allegations flood in, as over 100 employees allege sexual assault, racism and bullying

19 July 2023, 14:39

The fast food giant has been hit by floods of complaints from current and former members of staff.
The fast food giant has been hit by floods of complaints from current and former members of staff. Picture: Getty

By Jenny Medlicott

A probe into McDonald's has revealed more than 100 current and recent staff reported experiencing workplace abuse, including sexual assault, racism, harassment and bullying.

Since the allegations came to light on Tuesday, a string of other current and former employees have come forward with more claims against the fast food giant.

Some of those affected by the claims were as young as 17.

The claims have forced the UK equality watchdog to launch an email hotline for those affected, as it said it is “concerned” by some of the allegations being made.

The chain has said it will investigate all allegations made, as chief executive Alistair Macrow added: “There are clearly instances where we have fallen short and for that we deeply apologise.”

In February the franchise signed a legally binding agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) wherein it pledged to safeguard its staff from sexual harassment.

“We already have a strong track record in this area,” the fast food chain said when signing the contract at the time.

But over 100 allegations have been made by employees, and 78 were related to sexual harassment, 31 to sexual assault, 18 to racism, and six to homophobia, the BBC investigation revealed.

Speaking to the broadcaster, one worker said when she started at a branch in Nottingham, her male colleagues saw her as “fresh meat”.

“There is a saying at McDonald's, "tits on tills" - boys in the kitchen, girls on the counter. The idea is to put attractive people at the front,” Lucy, 22, said of her former branch in Norwich.

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McDonald's has more than 170,000 employees across its 1,450 restaurants in the UK.
McDonald's has more than 170,000 employees across its 1,450 restaurants in the UK. Picture: Getty

While Emily, who worked at one of the franchise’s branches in the North west aged 17, said: “The environment was really toxic - I was constantly being asked inappropriate things by other, male, crew members.

“At one point a manager groped me, and hit me on the bottom, and then laughed.”

“I didn't know who to go to,” she added. “Everyone would have stuck up for the manager, so there was no one I could report to.”

Other accusations made by employees allege slurs and name calling is a frequent occurrence. While others said some managers have dealt drugs to employees or taken cocaine in the offices at work, and one manager even threatened an employee with a knife.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the accusations were “deeply concerning” on Tuesday evening.

As McDonald’s is a franchise, most staffers are not directly employed by the chain but rather by individual operators licensed to run the branch, which means they are therefore in charge of employing staff.

The chain has been hit by floods of complaints.
The chain has been hit by floods of complaints. Picture: Alamy

The chain has more than 170,000 employees across its 1,450 restaurants in the UK.

Labour MP and chairman of the Commons business committee said the allegations were “some of the most appalling” he had seen.

He also suggested franchise unable to follow the law correctly should have their deals terminated.

Chief executive Mr Macrow said: “Already over 2,000 of our managers have completed full awareness training and nearly all of our restaurant teams are now working within these new protections aimed at creating a safe and respectful workplace.

“All of this is backed by McDonald's Global Standards, a set of stringent and non-negotiable guardrails to ensure safe and respectful workplaces, which we expect of all colleagues and Franchisees across the world.”

But ECHR chairwoman, Baroness Kishwer Falkner, said: “There should be zero tolerance of sexual harassment in every organisation. I'm concerned at these new reports of harassment at McDonald's, where we have an existing legal agreement in place to ensure their restaurants are safe places to work.

“McDonald's have committed to make improvements to set an example for others to follow, in the hospitality industry and elsewhere.

“Every employer, no matter how big or small, is responsible for protecting its workforce. We're determined to continue to crack down on illegal harassment at places of work.”

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