McDonald's slammed with 3 new sexual-harassment lawsuits as workers say the fast-food giant failed to protect them on the job

McDonald's slammed with 3 new sexual-harassment lawsuits as workers say the fast-food giant failed to protect them on the job
McDonald's is facing new sexual harassment lawsuits.Andrew Kelly/Reuters
  • McDonald's workers have filed three new sexual-harassment lawsuits in recent weeks.
  • The most recent was filed by Delisha Rivers, alleging McDonald's failed to offer support when her manager attempted to pressure her into sexual acts in exchange for cash and a raise.
  • "Our values drive our policies, including comprehensive safe and respectful workplace trainings that make clear our expectations for every person who works under the Arches," McDonald's said in a statement.

McDonald's is facing three new sexual-harassment lawsuits as the fast-food giant makes a major push on corporate values.

Workers at franchised McDonald's locations in St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Kansas City, Missouri, have filed lawsuits against the company in recent weeks alleging sexual assault and harassment. The most recent case was filed Thursday morning by a woman named Delisha Rivers.

Rivers alleges that a manager attempted to pressure her into sexual acts in exchange for cash and a raise when she was a shift leader at a McDonald's in early 2019. The complaint says she began facing retaliation at work after rejecting his advances.
Advertisement
The single mother of five said she struggled to find a way to contact McDonald's to report harassment. According to Rivers, she called multiple numbers - first connected to corporate, then to different field districts - attempting to report what she saw as targeted retaliation. None were able to offer her assistance.

Read more: Former Hamburger University worker sues McDonald's, alleging a coworker sexually assaulted and harassed her for years

"They were definitely impossible to reach," Rivers told Insider in a recent interview. "I still couldn't tell you how to reach them."
Advertisement

In February 2019, Rivers quit her job at McDonald's after facing what she calls unjustified criticism for things such as not speaking loudly enough, wearing the wrong color of shirt, and insubordination. It was a difficult process. With five children ages 2 to 9, Rivers said, she was forced to change her childcare routine, with her kids sitting in the lobby as she worked the night shift at her new job.

Rivers said she didn't feel as if McDonald's cared, because if it did, she said, "I'm pretty sure these franchise owners would be more aware and more careful about what goes on in their stores." Read more: Del Taco will pay more than $1 million to settle a sexual-harassment lawsuit. It's just the tip of the iceberg for a growing problem plaguing restaurant workers
Advertisement

McDonald's introduced a new hotline in 2019 that allows workers to anonymously express concerns and report harassment. The company said in a statement that it did not tolerate sexual harassment and that the company or franchisees reviewed the facts when concerns were raised in restaurants.

"Our values drive our policies, including comprehensive safe and respectful workplace trainings that make clear our expectations for every person who works under the Arches," McDonald's said in a statement. "McDonald's franchisees share our commitment to being responsible partners to our communities, and we make versions of these trainings available as a resource to them."

Accusations of failing to support workers

The two other sexual-harassment lawsuits filed in recent weeks similarly allege workers were not offered sufficient training or support in situations in which they described facing sexual harassment.
Advertisement

Barbara Johnson said she faced sexual harassment while working at a McDonald's in St. Louis as a homeless teenager in 2018. Johnson said a manager and another coworker verbally harassed her on the job, with the manager grabbing her breasts on what ended up being her last shift.

"Barbara felt sick to her stomach. She clocked out and went home before her shift ended," said the complaint, filed in December. "Barbara felt she had no choice but to quit."

"She could not go back to the store," the complaint continued, after the manager assaulted her.
Advertisement
Elsy Rodriguez said in a complaint filed in November that she faced physical and verbal harassment while working at a Los Angeles McDonald's, starting in 2015. She accused a maintenance worker at the McDonald's location of verbally harassing her, refusing to leave the bathroom while she was using it, and spanking her multiple times.

The complaint said she reported the abuse to her kitchen manager and to two shift managers.

"None of these managers did anything to help Ms. Rodriguez, and the harassment continued," the complaint said.
Advertisement

Rivers told Insider that the company's failure to take action when she attempted to report harassment was part of a wider pattern of McDonald's failing workers.

"They really don't care," Rivers said. "I've missed funerals working at McDonald's. I've missed a lot of stuff. I went in sick. They don't care as long as you're there."

McDonald's is attempting to double down on values

McDonald's slammed with 3 new sexual-harassment lawsuits as workers say the fast-food giant failed to protect them on the job
McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski is doubling down on values.AP Photo/Richard Drew
Florida McDonald's workers filed a $500 million sexual-harassment lawsuit against the company in 2020. A year prior, Michigan McDonald's workers filed a complaint alleging fast-food giant failed to address a "systemic problem" of harassment. Over the past four years, McDonald's employees have filed more than 50 sexual-harassment complaints.
Advertisement

In addition to the hotline, McDonald's rolled out a new training program to address harassment, discrimination, and workplace violence in 2019.

McDonald's has publicly reemphasized corporate values under CEO Chris Kempczinski, who was promoted to chief executive in late 2019.

Read more: McDonald's HR looks into new training and hiring processes to emphasize corporate values, as the fast-food giant faces controversies
Advertisement

Kempczinski's predecessor, Steve Easterbrook, was terminated after an investigation into the CEO's relationship with a subordinate. In August, McDonald's sued Easterbrook, alleging that he covered up three additional sexual relationships with employees at the fast-food chain.

Read more: Insiders reveal how former McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook went from the chain's savior to its worst nightmare as sex-scandal accusations threaten to envelop the fast-food giant

A group of McDonald's investors, led by CtW Investment Group, have called for McDonald's to oust two senior members of its corporate board, saying that the directors mismanaged the response to Easterbrook's conduct.
Advertisement
"The board hasn't been able to take decisive action," CtW Investment Group's executive director, Dieter Waizenegger, told Insider in December. "Issues started to fester. They can erupt and create much larger crises further on."

Read more: McDonald's investor explains why he and others are calling for the resignation of the fast-food giant's chairman

McDonald's also conducted a "top-to-bottom" review of its HR department after Heidi Capozzi was hired as global chief people officer in April. Capozzi's predecessor, David Fairhurst, was fired the day after Easterbrook was terminated. His termination was tied to his behavior making women at the company uncomfortable, Capozzi said in an internal meeting in 2020.
Advertisement
{{}}