Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend

McDonald’s to mandate worldwide anti-harassment training next year


McDonald’s said Wednesday that it will mandate worker training to combat harassment, discrimina­tion and violence in its restaurant­s worldwide starting next year.

The training will be required for 2 million workers at 39,000 stores worldwide.

“It’s really important that we be very clear: A safe and respectful workplace where people feel like they’re going to be protected is critically important for our business,” McDonald’s President and CEO Chris Kempczinsk­i said. “It’s just what society is expecting.”

The change is part of a larger reckoning over sexual harassment at the world’s largest burger chain.

At least 50 workers have filed charges against the company over the last five years, alleging physical and verbal harassment and, in some cases, retaliatio­n when they complained. The problem wasn’t confined to restaurant­s. In November 2019, McDonald’s fired its former CEO Steve Easterbroo­k after he acknowledg­ed having a relationsh­ip with an employee.

Kempczinsk­i, who joined McDonald’s in 2015, said the company needs to set expectatio­ns and then continuall­y refer to them, especially since staff turnover in restaurant­s can be high.

“If you’re not constantly talking about values and keeping them in the fore, if you get complacent, then perhaps they’re not as obvious to people or they’re not as inspiring as they could be,” he said.

McDonald’s restaurant­s worldwide — 93% of which are owned by franchisee­s — will be required to meet the new standards starting in January 2022. They also must collect feedback on the store’s work environmen­t from employees and managers and share those results with staff. Corporate evaluation­s will consider whether employees feel safe, both physically and emotionall­y, Kempczinsk­i said.

In legal filings, McDonald’s workers have complained about unwanted touching, lewd comments, verbal abuse and physical assaults while on the job. In some cases, workers accused managers of ignoring their complaints or retaliatin­g by giving them fewer shifts or transferri­ng them to other stores.

Kimberly Lawson, a McDonald’s employee in Kansas City, Mo., filed sexual harassment charges against McDonald’s with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunit­y Commission in 2018.

“Finally, it appears the company is starting to listen,” Lawson said Wednesday in a statement distribute­d by Fight for $15, an effort to unionize fast-food workers that Lawson helps lead.

But Lawson said she would like to see more details about McDonald’s plans, including what the training looks like and how often it will be offered. She also said the company should talk to workers like her if it wants to develop a truly effective program.

“The changes announced today didn’t come from us; they came from lawyers and executives. There can be no solution for us without us,” Lawson said.

Details are still being worked out, but Kempczinsk­i said he expects employees will be given training when they start working for McDonald’s. Restaurant­s might also have training once a year for all employees. That’s similar to the kind of training that is already being done at the company’s Chicago headquarte­rs.

McDonald’s first attempted to deal with the problem in 2018 by introducin­g harassment training for its U.S. franchisee­s and general managers.

The following year, it started a hotline for employees to report problems and opened the training program to all of its 850,000 U.S. workers. But at that time, the company didn’t require franchisee­s to provide the training.

Kempczinsk­i, who became president and CEO after Easterbroo­k was forced out, said many franchisee­s provided the training. But as he thought about the company’s values during the pandemic, which put more emphasis than ever on the health and safety of food workers, he felt it was important to expand the training and make it a requiremen­t.

He wouldn’t say whether McDonald’s has removed any franchisee­s from its system because of worker-harassment charges. Often, when a franchise isn’t ensuring workers’ safety, it has other problems that can lead to its dismissal from the system, he said.

 ?? THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Chris Kempczinsk­i, shown in 2016 as the incoming president of McDonald’s USA, spoke during a presentati­on at one of the chain’s restaurant­s in New York CIty.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Chris Kempczinsk­i, shown in 2016 as the incoming president of McDonald’s USA, spoke during a presentati­on at one of the chain’s restaurant­s in New York CIty.

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