Female employees of the fast-food chain are staging walk-outs in ten U.S. cities over the company's response to sexual harassment claims.

By Maria Yagoda
September 18, 2018

On Tuesday, a first-of-its kind strike among McDonald's employees sweeps the country. Female workers at McDonald's locations in ten cities are staging walk-outs in protest of the company's handling of sexual harassment allegations. The strike follows the complaints of 25 women, filed in May; the employees said that McDonald's had ignored incidents of harassment after they had reported them. 

According to the Associated Press, the women "alleged groping, propositions for sex, indecent exposure and lewd comments by supervisors. [W]hen the women reported the harassment, they were ignored or mocked, and in some cases suffered retaliation."

"At McDonald’s Corporation, we are and have been committed to a culture that fosters the respectful treatment of everyone," read a statement emailed to Food & Wine by a McDonald's spokesperson. "There is no place for harassment and discrimination of any kind in our workplace. McDonald’s Corporation takes allegations of sexual harassment very seriously and are confident our independent franchisees who own and operate approximately 90 percent of our 14,000 U.S. restaurants will do the same."

According to organizers, the walk-out will begin around lunchtime on Tuesday at several restaurants in ten cities across the country: Chicago; Durham, North Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles; Miami; Milwaukee; New Orleans; Orlando, Florida; San Francisco, and St. Louis. The legal defenses for the EOCC complaints are being paid for by TIMES UP Legal Defense Fund, which launched in January.

In response to the walk-out, McDonald's spokeswoman Andrea Abate said in an email to the Associated Press: "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."

Mary Joyce Carlson, the labor lawyer who has been working with the employees who filed the EEOC complaints, tells Time that the company's current policies are not sufficient.

“We see no evidence there’s been any change at all,” she said. “Whatever policy they have is not effective.”

Kim Lawson, a Kansas City McDonald's employee who alleged routine, pervasive sexual harassment and inaction from her superiors, has a few ideas for where the company can start.

"We’re pushing for them to do sexual harassment trainings," Lawson tells Jezebel. "We want for there to be a safe number to call without rear of retaliation. We want there to be a no tolerance policy for any harassment."

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