Nam Y. Huh / AP
Updated 10:43 a.m. ET
A group of McDonald’s cooks and cashiers are suing the fast food chain over the company’s handling of what the lawsuit describes as a “national model” of customers attacking and harassing workers.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday by 17 Chicago-area workers, alleges McDonald’s and its franchisees have failed to protect workers by extending work hours late into the night, designing stores in a way that makes workers vulnerable and providing inadequate security training and support. .
“They and their colleagues face a daily risk of workplace violence,” the lawsuit says, accusing McDonald’s and its Chicago-area franchisees of being “negligent in failing to protect their workers from this risk.”
In a statement, McDonald’s said it “takes seriously its responsibility to provide and foster a safe work environment for our employees, and with our franchisees, continue to invest in training programs that maintain safe environments for them. customers and crew members. In addition to training, McDonald’s maintains strict policies against violence in our restaurants. “
The fast food restaurant chain announced a new anti-harassment and workplace safety training program for U.S. workers in August following a wave of allegations of sexual harassment of female workers. Last week, McDonald’s said it has rolled out the program to all company-owned restaurants and was “encouraged” by the progress franchisees are making in implementing it.
More than 90% of McDonald’s restaurants around the world are owned by franchisees, and Thursday’s case is the latest attempt by workers and groups of workers to hold McDonald’s accountable for what goes on inside its franchise stores. The workers named in the case are employed in both company-owned establishments and franchises and have the support of labor group Fight for $ 15.
In lawsuits over the years, McDonald’s has argued that it should not be held responsible for franchisees and their employees. In October, a California federal appeals court ruled that McDonald’s did not have enough control over employees of franchisees to be considered a joint employer responsible for their treatment.
Thursday’s trial, filed in Cook County, Illinois, alleges that the attacks and harassment described by workers were “the result of choices made by McDonald’s that compromise safety.”
Workers argue that they face higher risks of violence and attacks from customers due to the physical design of McDonald’s stores, which is determined by company headquarters. The lawsuit points out that McDonald’s selects store locations and generally owns or leases the property.
In the costume, workers recount how lowered and divided checkout boxes allowed people to jump or simply enter the kitchen and work areas, to hit, threaten or throw objects at workers. The lawsuit describes several cases of someone climbing onto the counter and brandishing a gun.
Three of the workers involved in the lawsuit said men exposed themselves and verbally assaulted them while cleaning bathrooms in shops. Workers say they couldn’t lock the bathroom for cleaning and the bathrooms were not visible to the rest of their team.
The lawsuit also targets the design of the steering wheel window, which is open to allow physical contact between customers and workers. Several workers described people reaching or even climbing to attack the workers.
Several workers allege their managers discouraged employees from calling police and did not do so themselves – and in some cases, laughed in response to reports of threats or harassment, according to the lawsuit.
Last week, a former worker sued McDonald’s and one of its Michigan franchisees for “systemic sexual harassment” of female employees which she said has not been resolved by the company. The case is a class action suit and is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund.
Lawyers representing the workers say more than 50 complaints and accusations of harassment of female employees by male colleagues are pending against McDonald’s in court and before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Their cases gained attention this month when McDonald’s fired its CEO, Steve Easterbrook, over a consensual relationship with an employee. He is not accused of sexual harassment, but the relationship violated company policy. Still, Easterbrook receives a multi-million dollar release package.
In May, McDonald’s employees in the United States staged protests against low wages and the company’s handling of allegations of sexual harassment.