And in the US

McDonald's hit by workers' harassment claims

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK • Ten women who work at McDonald's restaurants in Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and six other cities have filed sexual harassment complaints in the past few days with the federal government against the company and its franchisees.

The complaints, filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), are the latest effort by the union-backed "Fight for $15" to have McDonald's designated a "joint employer" of workers at McDonald's franchises and thereby liable when its franchisees violate labour laws.

The claimants, including a 15-year-old from St Louis, said in a conference call with journalists that they were ignored, mocked or terminated for reporting the behaviour. The accusations included claims that co-workers or supervisors sexually propositioned, groped or exposed themselves to the women.

"I felt I had no choice but to tolerate it," Ms Kimberley Lawson, 25, who makes US$8.75 (S$12) per hour at a McDonald's in Kansas City, Missouri, said.

The restaurant industry, which employs half of American women at some point in their lives, has one of the country's largest sexual harassment problems because its low-wage and largely female workforce is vulnerable to mistreatment from customers and colleagues.

The complaints against McDonald's and the franchisee operators of the restaurants where the women work are similar to sexual harassment accusations also filed with the EEOC two years ago.

McDonald's spokesman Terri Hickey said the company was dismissed from the 2016 claims because it did not employ the individuals who filed the complaints.

Ms Hickey said that McDonald's has policies that prohibit sexual harassment at the company and at the restaurants it owns and operates, while franchisees are responsible for setting employment policies for their restaurants.

The company said in a statement that it takes the accusations seriously and that the franchisees who operate some 90 per cent of its roughly 14,000 US restaurants "will do the same".

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2018, with the headline 'McDonald's hit by workers' harassment claims'. Print Edition | Subscribe