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

Two advocacy groups, The Fight for $15 and TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, have joined to help these workers organize against abuse that they say is “rampant.”

“Few women working in low-wage jobs have the means or the financial security to challenge sexual harassment,” Sharyn Tejani, director of TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, says in a statement. “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.”

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.

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