A toxic culture of sexual harassment is prevalent in McDonald’s stores in the UK, with predatory employees moved to different stores rather than being sacked, according to workers.
The allegations from at least 1,000 women, range from managers repeatedly making sexual comments, brushing up against staff and discussing sexual desires, to abusing their access to workers’ contact details in order to send sexts and explicit photos, and even offering better hours and promotion in return for sex.
Workers at branches across the UK have detailed a catalogue of abuse and harassment to the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), the country’s largest independent trade union in the food sector, the Independent reported.
President of the union, Ian Hodson, says complaints were ‘swept under the carpet’, workers were ‘victimised’ for complaining, and that some had been paid compensation on the condition they sign non-disclosure agreements.
A spokesperson for UK McDonald’s urged anyone with any concerns around sexual harassment to speak to their manager or contact their confidential employee helpline to allow them to ‘investigate immediately’.
A spokesperson for the BFAWU said: ‘Sexual harassment is very prevalent. There is a toxic culture.
‘Predatory employees operate with impunity. I would not say sexual harassment and sexual assault is happening in every store, but where a predatory manager or culture arises, then McDonald’s is doing far too little to address it.’
The spokesperson went on to add that workers were dependent on their hours to survive, which created a power imbalance when a senior member of staff or manager is a predator.
They added: ‘When people make a complaint, managers do not deal with the procedure as they should. They often brush it off rather than say “that should not be happening, we need to start an investigation into this”.
‘We have heard of several situations where managers accused of sexual harassment have been moved.’
The union spokesperson said that the figure of 1,000 cases was based on conversations the union has had with workers across the country, adding that victims of sexual harassment are being put off reporting abuse due to fear of retaliation or being bullied.
A female McDonald’s employee from London said she had endured sexual harassment from a more senior colleague at a store where she has worked at for a number of years.
She said: ‘I got approached by a manager who would make sly comments, like asking if she was up for any fun while his wife was going to be away.
‘He would say that in the workplace. He eventually got hold of my phone number from the system or from another employee.
‘He text me to say he was at home alone with just the kids. I just blocked his number. That resulted in him pulling his pants down in the stockroom where there were no cameras.’
The union said her attempts to seek help over many months were not taken seriously, which led her to write a formal letter about what was happening to human resources.
That resulted in what the union described as an inadequate ‘investigation’ meeting being carried out months later.
Following the initial ‘investigation’ she was expected to continue working alongside her harasser.
A spokesperson for McDonald’s in the UK said: ‘There is absolutely no place for harassment or discrimination of any kind in society or at McDonald’s.
‘We deeply regret that the employee’s case was not treated with the sensitivity and gravity it warrants. This is not acceptable and our investigation into the case is ongoing.
‘We have long-standing policies, procedures and training in place specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment – we regularly review and evolve these and we’ve recently rolled out a new training programme and guidance.’