McDonald’s to Mandate Anti-Harassment Training Worldwide – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
McDonald’s announced on Wednesday that it will require workers to be trained to tackle harassment, discrimination and violence in its restaurants around the world starting next year.
The training will be required for 2 million employees in 39,000 stores worldwide.
“It is really important that we are very clear about this: A safe and respectful workplace where people feel safe is vital to our company,” said Chris Kempczinski, President and CEO of McDonald’s, in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s exactly what society expects.”
The change is part of a larger sexual harassment settlement at the world’s largest burger chain. At least 50 workers have brought charges against the company in the past five years for physical and verbal harassment and, in some cases, retaliatory acts when they complained. The problem wasn’t limited to restaurants. In November 2019, McDonald’s fired former CEO Steve Easterbrook after confirming he had a relationship with an employee.
Kempczinski, who joined McDonald’s in 2015, said the company needs to set expectations and then relate to them continuously, especially since restaurant turnover can be high.
“If you don’t talk about values all the time and keep them front and center when you get complacent, they may not be as obvious or as inspiring to people as they could be,” he said.
McDonald’s restaurants worldwide, 93% of which are franchise-owned, will have to meet the new standards from January 2022. They also need to collect feedback from employees and managers on the business environment and share these results with employees. Company evaluations check whether employees feel safe, both physically and emotionally, said Kempckinski.
In legal filings, McDonald’s employees have complained of unwanted touch, lewd comments, verbal abuse, and physical assault while on the job. In some cases, workers accused managers of ignoring their grievances or retaliating by giving them fewer shifts or moving them to other businesses.
Kimberly Lawson, an employee of McDonald’s in Kansas City, Missouri, filed sexual harassment charges against McDonald’s with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2018.
“Finally it seems the company is starting to listen,” Lawson said Wednesday in a statement distributed by Fight for $ 15 to unite Lawson-led fast food workers.
But Lawson said she would like to know more details about McDonald’s plans, including what the workout looks like and how often it is offered. She also said the company should speak to workers like her if it is to develop a really effective program.
“The changes announced today did not come from us. They came from lawyers and executives. Without us, there can be no solution for us, ”Lawson said.
Details are still being worked out, but Kempczinski expects employees to receive training when they work at McDonald’s. Restaurants may also provide training for all employees once a year. This is similar to the type of training already held at the company’s Chicago headquarters.
McDonald’s first attempted to solve the problem in 2018 by introducing harassment training for its US franchisees and directors. The following year, an employee hotline was set up to report problems and the training program opened to all 850,000 US workers. At this point, however, the company did not need franchisees to conduct the training.
Kempczinski, who became president and CEO after Easterbrook left, said many franchisees offered the training. However, when reflecting on the company’s values during the pandemic, which put the health and safety of food workers at the fore more than ever, he felt it was important to expand training and make it a requirement.
He wouldn’t say if McDonald’s removed franchisees from its system for harassing workers. When a franchise company fails to ensure workers’ safety, it often has other issues that could lead to its being fired from the system, he said.
Many McDonald’s franchisees support the change.
“As an employer, we play an important role in raising the bar for a value-driven, safe and inclusive work environment,” said Mark Salebra, chairman of the National Franchisee Leadership Alliance, in a statement distributed by McDonald’s. Allianz represents more than 2,000 US franchisees.
McDonald’s said it will continue to work with experts and provide anti-harassment materials, but franchisees could choose their own training programs.
Vanessa Bohns, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University, said that sexual harassment training alone may not be effective and can actually lead to setback.
Bohns said McDonald’s should address harassment in other ways, including instructing bystanders how to intervene when they witness the harassment and ensuring that women, and especially minority women, are promoted to leadership positions.
McDonald’s announced in February that it will begin tying executive pay to meet goals of adding more women and underrepresented minorities to its leadership positions.
Kempczinski hopes that McDonald’s anti-harassment efforts will become a role model for the restaurant industry.
“Let’s use this to raise the overall standards for the industry,” he said.
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