Investigation Reveals ‘Toxic’ Culture at McDonald’s

Colleagues as young as 17 groped and harassed

More than 100 McDonald’s employees have accused the company of allowing a toxic workplace environment involving sexual assault, harassment, racism and bullying. This follows an investigation by the BBC into the fast food chain’s working conditions.

Of the allegations submitted to the BBC, 31 related to sexual assault, 78 were in relation to sexual harassment, 18 were linked to racism and six people made allegations of homophobia.

These claims represent a completely different picture to the one put forward by McDonald’s, who said as recently as February 2023 that they had a “strong track record” of tackling harassment within their branches.

New female recruits seen as ‘fresh meat’

One current McDonald’s employee told the BBC that she was seen as “fresh meat” when she started working at a Nottingham branch. And other female workers reported feeling constantly judged based on the way they looked.

Some female employees said that they had been forced to wear uniforms that were too tight, while others mentioned the culture of “boys in the kitchen, girls on the counter”. Lucy, who worked in Norwich, told the BBC that the idea was to put “attractive” women and girls at the front.

The BBC also found that a number of female workers had experienced inappropriate touching while at work. Shelby, who was a teenager when she started working at a Berkshire branch, explained how older male colleagues would use the cramped kitchen layout as an excuse to touch her.

Shelby reported every instance of inappropriate behaviour to senior management, but says nothing was done to help her.

Management ‘turning a blind eye’ to complaints

Many of the people the BBC spoke to had already reported their experiences to senior management, but say they were generally ignored.

17-year-old Chinyere said she was sexually and racially abused by a much older man while working at a Cheshire McDonald’s. After reporting this to a female colleague who was responsible for staff wellbeing, Chinyere was told to ignore the man’s behaviour and return to work.

It was only when Chinyere’s stepfather involved the police that the older colleague was dismissed.

Another worker in Birmingham had been smacked on the bottom by a male colleague when she was 19. Despite the incident being reported, caught on camera and the employee having visible bruises, no further action was taken.

In some instances, it was the managers themselves who were allegedly engaged in inappropriate behaviour. The BBC was told that there were numerous cases of sexual relationships between managers and younger members of staff, which is against company policy.

Sexual harassment training was not taken seriously

In February this year, McDonald’s signed an agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and pledged to protect its staff from sexual harassment. Part of this commitment involved the introduction of new training programmes.

But the BBC heard from employees that this training has not been taken seriously by managers. One employee described balancing an iPad next to a McFlurry machine and speeding through harassment training videos while he made drinks.

In response to the claims made against them, McDonald’s released a statement saying that it had “fallen short” and “deeply apologised”. The company has said it will investigate all the allegations brought forward, and will take action “up to and including dismissal” where claims can be proven.

If you’ve reported bullying or harassment to your employer and nothing has been done, you could have grounds to take legal action. Our solicitors can help you take the first steps towards justice and support.

To find out more, give us a call on the number at the top of the screen or enquire online.


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