U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, and seven of her colleagues are calling on McDonald’s to improve its protections against sexual harassment at locations across the country and do more to address allegations of workplace harassment, abuse and retaliation suffered by McDonald’s workers.
In a letter to McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook, the senators emphasized how the updated company policies McDonald’s recently announced are insufficient if franchisees – who own the vast majority of McDonald’s locations – are not required to implement and enforce them.
“The McDonald’s Corporation must do more to combat workplace harassment, abuse and retaliation suffered by McDonald’s workers across the country,” the Senators wrote. “After carefully reviewing your public statements and documents, we remain troubled that the procedures, policies and activities outlined fall short of providing a safe and respectful work environment for all workers who wear the McDonald’s uniform.”
“Since independently owned operations make up the vast majority of the over 14,000 McDonald’s locations across the U.S., it is imperative that the McDonald’s Corporation require all franchise locations to adopt the updated policies to guarantee that all workers will be covered by the new protections and support services,” the senators continued.
Duckworth (shown) was joined in signing the letter by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
The senators also asked a series of questions regarding how McDonald’s Corporation will promote workplaces that are safe and respectful at corporate and franchisee locations and how it plans to investigate reports of harassment and abuse. In addition, the senators requested more details on the feedback McDonald’s received from workers and other stakeholders while working on its updated policies.
“For three years, we’ve been speaking out, filing charges and even going on strike to get McDonald’s to confront its sexual harassment problem,” said Tanya Harrell, a McDonald’s worker and Fight for $15 and a Union leader from Gretna, La., who filed an EEOC charge alleging a coworker attempted to rape her in a bathroom stall. “With Sen. Duckworth joining with us to hold McDonald’s accountable, our voices are even louder. We’re grateful she’s asking the tough questions and pushing the company to take responsibility to make sure all of its workers are safe on the job.”
“McDonald’s track record on tackling sexual harassment is dreadful,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center. “As the world’s second largest private sector employer, McDonald’s is perfectly positioned—if it chooses—to take a meaningful lead in an industry that’s rampant with abuse. And it can start by listening to its workers and acting.”
Duckworth previously wrote to McDonald’s in late 2018 to urge the corporation to improve its protections against sexual harassment after she heard from McDonald’s workers who had serious workplace safety concerns.
Here is a full copy of the letter sent Tuesday:
“Dear Mr. Easterbrook:
“We write regarding efforts to address unsafe and intolerable work conditions within your company and your statement that “the McDonald’s system has always had an unyielding commitment to providing a safe and respectful work environment for all.” It is positive that the McDonald’s Corporation is working with RAINN to help develop updated company policies to create a safe and more respectful work environment. However, continued reports of workplace misconduct are unacceptable.
“The McDonald’s Corporation must do more to combat workplace harassment, abuse and retaliation suffered by McDonald’s workers across the country. After carefully reviewing your public statements and documents, we remain troubled that the procedures, policies and activities outlined fall short of providing a safe and respectful work environment for all workers who wear the McDonald’s uniform. Since independently owned operations make up the vast majority of the over 14,000 McDonald’s locations across the U.S., it is imperative that the McDonald’s Corporation require all franchise locations to adopt the updated policies to guarantee that all workers will be covered by the new protections and support services.
“Making this new policy a requirement of franchise agreements would be consistent with existing McDonald’s Corporation policy. McDonald’s already places enormous requirements on its franchisees, including down to granular tasks and food preparation techniques. These mandates are a way to ensure consistency across locations. Yet, when working to protect McDonald’s workers, you have chosen a different approach that settles on merely “encouraging” and “offering” new policies and resources to franchise operators. In doing so, the McDonald’s Corporation is sending the wrong message about its priorities and corporate values and undercutting its own efforts to address these problems.
“To understand how the McDonald’s Corporation will implement its new policies and procedures, please provide us with specific answers to the following questions:
1. Why is the McDonald’s Corporation choosing to “encourage” or “offer” its new policies and procedures to franchisees, rather than requiring owner operators to update their own policies to better promote a workplace free of harassment and retaliation?
2. If an owner operator refuses to update internal policies and procedures to align with McDonald’s Corporation’s new policies, or fails to implement the new policies effectively, will that owner operator risk losing ownership of that location or be barred from purchasing future McDonald’s franchises?
3. You have stated that over 90 percent of owner operators and general managers have completed the third party interactive training that the company recently launched. If an owner operator refuses to complete the training, will that owner operator risk losing ownership of that location or be barred from purchasing future McDonald’s franchises?
4. In regard to promoting consistency with the McDonald’s brand through franchise agreement requirements, does the McDonald’s Corporation view an owner operator’s failure to update and enforce policies and resources aimed at preventing and addressing workplace harassment or abuse as equivalent to an owner operator failing to follow the McDonald’s Corporation food preparation policies?
5. Under the new anti-harassment policy, how will McDonald’s Corporation investigate reports of unsafe work conditions, including harassment or abuse, at one of its owner operator locations and at its corporate locations?
6. You have alluded to your work engaging stakeholders such as owner operators, workers and the general public, in developing the updated workplace safety and harassment initiatives. What feedback did McDonald’s receive on the question of whether owner operators should be required to meet the same standards with respect to anti-harassment measures as corporate store managers?
7. To date, what percentage of owner operators have committed to implementing the new educational training modules on harassment, unconscious bias and workplace safety, to be rolled out in August 2019?
8. To date, what percentage of owner operators have committed to making available to their workers the new third-party managed hotline?
9. Going forward, how will McDonald’s evaluate whether new policies and resources, including the hotline, are effectively preventing and addressing workplace harassment, abuse and retaliation, in both corporate and franchise locations?
10. Going forward, does McDonald’s plan to continue seeking stakeholder feedback regarding the effectiveness of your new policies and resources, including from workers at franchise locations? Will those engagements be public? Will McDonald’s provide public summaries of the feedback you have received?
“It is also important to see the specific documents you have publicly alluded to. To that end, please provide any documents McDonald’s possesses that summarize the information obtained during listening sessions or conversations with stakeholders. Please also provide the poster you have publicly mentioned, documents for the third-party facilitated and interactive training, your new educational modules on harassment, unconscious bias and workplace safety and any documents or materials you have provided to workers or owner-operators regarding the new, third-party managed hotline.
“Owing to the importance of this issue, we respectfully request that you submit answers to our questions no later than Monday, June 25, 2019. Addressing this issue is paramount for workers across the country. The McDonald’s Corporation must make every effort to guarantee a safe workplace for all workers who wear a McDonald’s uniform. We expect your prompt reply to these questions, and look forward to continuing to work with you to advance the safety of workers.”