“MeToo” fails to address the abuse faced by young McDonald’s workers.
The majority of McDonald’s workers are so young that they were still in school when the “MeToo” movement gained momentum in 2017. Since then, numerous stories have emerged about powerful individuals in positions of authority who have faced consequences for their behaviour towards colleagues, often involving sexual harassment. This widespread media coverage might lead one to believe that the MeToo reckoning has permeated every aspect of society, especially considering the increased focus on workplace culture by CEOs. However, the reality is that behind the counters of McDonald’s, teenage workers are reporting a hostile environment.
Although McDonald’s restaurants are primarily franchises, there are limitations on the autonomy granted to these businesses. The corporation mandates “uniformity and commitment” to the McDonald’s brand, ensuring customers receive the same experience and service quality at every location across the country. To maintain this uniformity, strict rules are imposed on how these franchises operate, including regular inspections for compliance.
The corporate headquarters claims to take sexual harassment seriously, with various policies in place such as training programmes, confidential surveys, and a helpline. However, an investigation has raised concerns about relying too heavily on young crew members to report incidents.
Initially, McDonald’s employees were hesitant to speak out due to fear of job loss and being labelled as informants. Over the course of four months, the investigators travelled the country, building trust with over 100 employees who wanted to share their stories. Ultimately, only a few individuals were willing to go on record. This fear among employees is not surprising considering many of them joined McDonald’s at the age of 16, making it their first job. They are expected to respect authority, but too often, those in charge do not behave responsibly.
Another significant aspect of this issue is the cramped working conditions in McDonald’s kitchens. Despite the small spaces, it is difficult to believe that store managers cannot quickly discern how staff members are treating each other. McDonald’s asserts that there is “simply no place for harassment, abuse, or discrimination” within the company, but the investigation has shed light on ongoing concerns among employees.