McDonald’s employees in 12 cities across the United States walked off the job on October 26, 2021, in protest of the company’s poor response to reports of harassment.

At least 50 workers have filed charges against McDonald’s as a company for verbal, physical, and sexual harassment in their restaurants over the past five years, and strike organizers estimate that for every report filed, there are more than a hundred incidents that go unreported. McDonald’s workers tend to be either very young, impoverished, or both, which aren’t demographics likely to report mistreatment. The fear of losing their job is too high.

Tuesday’s labor action was centered around a lawsuit filed in September by a 15-year-old McDonald’s employee and her parents against one franchisee and the parent company. The employee was only 14 when she was hired at a Pittsburgh McDonald’s, under a manager already on Pennsylvania’s sex offender registry for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl. The manager harassed the teenager and other underage workers. Complaints were made both to store leadership and to McDonald’s, but there was no investigation. After a month of this, the manager sexually assaulted the teenager in a bathroom. He has since been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, and the teenager is seeking damages from both McDonald’s and the franchisee that ran her restaurant.

The franchisee, Michele Rice, claims that the offending manager was fired as soon as she heard the complaints about him, but the teenager had lodged complaints several weeks before her assault in February. He continued to work in the restaurant until his arrest in April.

While McDonald’s has announced that it will require sexual harassment training and reporting procedures in all of its stores beginning in 2022, the protesting McDonald’s employees want something more – accountability. They want both McDonald’s and the franchisees which operate under it to be held accountable for harassment in the restaurants.

Photo by 8th.creator / Shutterstock.com

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