Sexual misconduct is not at all an uncommon sight to see in the workplace these days. There seems to be a universal theme in which it is almost acceptable to be in environments that allow for acts of sexual misdemeanor across many US corporations. But this kind of behavior is unacceptable and should not be at all permitted in any setting, especially the workplace. It is extremely important to consider the fact that the scope of sexual misconduct is not limited to extremes such as rape and/or sexual assault- it can mean physical contact, flirtation, or any other means of involvement that is acted on without consent from both parties, particularly in the workforce. In order to eradicate this kind of inappropriate misconduct, workplaces need to create and foster a system in which there is zero tolerance of acts of sexual harassment.
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McDonald’s is currently facing backlash from its employees for the lack of action that the corporation has taken against cries for help against sexual harassment at work. According to The Atlantic, just in the month of “May, 10 women working at McDonald’s locations in nine different cities filed complaints… for what they described as a culture of rampant sexual harassment”. Though sexual harassment has been an issue in many different types of workplaces, it is especially difficult for people who work in low-income areas or jobs that offer low pay such as McDonald’s. But that’s not all- according to Eater, there are “walkouts in 10 cities… to protest how McDonald’s handles sexual harassment”. These actions are not new to the McDonald’s workforce at all- back in 2016, “a union-backed group filed similar… complaints on behalf of 15 employees”. Though these issues may have begun years ago, it seems that actions are only now being taken. Along with the strike, workers are now asking for “McDonald’s [to] strengthen and enforce its zero-tolerance policy against sexual harassment” because although McDonald’s does have a so-called “zero tolerance” policy, it clearly was not being acted upon. The change to the way that McDonald’s controls the rules they have placed within their system is incredibly important for them- they must be able to show that they are not incapable of managing their own rules. In addition to this, employees are demanding “mandatory trainings… for receiving and responding to [sexual harassment] complaints”. Before this, when employees attempted to report incidents of sexual harassment to the higher-ups, they were oftentimes met with ignorance or would even be laughed at. According to the Eater, an employee of McDonald’s in New Orleans named Tanya Harrel was a constant victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. One coworker “started groping her against her will”, and another even tried to “force her to have sex with him” (Covert). But no matter what she did, they either “didn’t believe her” or “thought she was giving the coworker ‘sex appeal’ ” (Covert). She attempted to leave working for a period of time, but ended up becoming financially dependent on others. Clearly, this is an issue of the staffing that must be remedied as soon as possible. The launch of programs and trainings for keeping sexual misconducts at a distance would be an improvement that also will begin to motivate workers to come work, since the lack of action being taken was a major reason as to why employees such as Harrel would either take time off or quit the job completely. The final change that employees are requesting is a “formation of a committee that [would]… make sure nobody… faces sexual harassment as part of the job” (Giorgis). This would fortify the earlier demand made by the employees and help foster a culture in the workplace that would not allow for sexual harassment in any form. These changes, long overdue, are now being adamantly requested of the enormous franchise, and the employees have no intention of being declined. For years, McDonald’s employees have asked the chain to take initiative in eliminating the issue of sexual harassment at work and after a long period of poor management, it seems that they are finally listening. McDonald’s has responded to the strikes by saying that they have hired third-party “experts in the areas of prevention and response, including RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), to evolve their policies”. These third party experts will improve the way franchise communicates with each of their chain stores regarding sexual harassment and issues relating to this and make sure the employees’ pleas are addressed.
Though there are now improvements being made, McDonald’s acted much too late to address the situation and thus must make much more drastic changes to the way they manage each of their stores. They must not only make changes to the rules that they have written down regarding sexual harassment, but they must also have tangible, observable methods of disciplinary action in response to possible violations of these rules. There should also be more careful staffing of each of McDonald’s chain stores in order to facilitate a safe environment for all employees- otherwise, all the training sessions in the world would prove to be useless.
Though there are changes being made to the way McDonald’s handles issues of sexual misconduct, the workers are still on strike because it is not enough. The changes being made are much too small and slow, and the employees require results now. But, the scope to be discussing sexual harassment is much too large to only mention the McDonald’s franchise- there is a need for cultural change not only within the workplace of McDonald’s but in all corporations. This is only the first step in a long journey toward workplace safety.
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