Careers

McDonald's employees will strike to bring attention to sexual harassment

Jeff Greenberg | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

In March, McDonald's turned its golden arches upside-down for International Women's Day. "We have a long history of supporting women in the workplace, giving them the opportunity to grow and succeed," said spokesperson Lauren Altmin at the time.

But in May, 10 women and girls filed claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that McDonald's had ignored their complaints about various forms of sexual harassment while working for McDonald's, including, according to Law360, "groping, propositions for sex, lewd comments" and retaliation for reporting harassment.

According to the National Women's Law Center, a 15-year-old cashier in St. Louis alleges that an older male employee said "You have a nice body. Have you ever had white chocolate inside you?" When the girl reported the incident to her manager, she was reportedly told, "You will never win that battle."

One Chicago worker claims that she was asked by her manager if she wanted to see his penis. He later asked "how many penises she could take." After reporting the incident, the woman says, she was fired.

Workers feel that not enough has been done to address issues like these since the claims were filed. And so on September 18th, workers from 10 cities across the country — Chicago, Durham, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Orlando, San Francisco and St. Louis — will strike.

The walkout, which is set to take place at lunchtime, was voted on and approved by "women's committees" organized by McDonald's workers across the country, according to the Associated Press.

The Fight for $15 and the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund have each joined to help these workers organize.

"As shown by these charges and thousands of intakes we have received at the Fund from women in every industry, those who report their abuse are often fired, demoted or mocked — and since nothing is done to stop the harassment, nothing changes," Sharyn Tejani, director of TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund, says in a statement.

In a statement provided to CNBC Make It, McDonald's said it has policies in place intended to protect employees.

"There is no place for harassment or discrimination of any kind at McDonald's," the statement reads. "Since our founding, we've been committed to a culture that fosters the respectful treatment of everyone. We have policies, procedures and training in place that are specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment at our company and company-owned restaurants, and we firmly believe that our franchisees share this commitment."

In response to the recent attention, McDonald's today announced new partnerships with anti-sexual assault nonprofit Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), as well as legal compliance firm Seyfarth Shaw at Work in order to "evolve our policies, procedures and training."

But some workers remain skeptical of the company's commitment to combating harassment.

"They want people to think they care, but they don't care," Tanya Harrell, one of the strike organizers, tells the Associated Press. Harrell filed a report with the EEOC claiming she was teased by two managers for reporting verbal and physical abuse from a co-worker at the New Orleans location where she works.

Going forward, Tejani says that McDonald's has the opportunity to make radical changes to protect women and girls and to lead the way for other major corporations. "McDonald's is perfectly positioned — if it chooses — to take the lead in an industry that's rampant with abuse," she says.

Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!

Don't miss: