McDonald’s boosting training to reduce workplace harassment

The company and its franchisees are introducing a program that focuses on improving the work environment at its U.S. locations.
Photograph courtesy of McDonald's Corp.

McDonald’s on Wednesday announced a sweeping new training initiative designed to reduce harassment in its nearly 14,000 domestic restaurants.

The company’s U.S. division, along with the National Franchisee Leadership Alliance (NFLA), an internal group representing its 2,000 domestic owner-operators, announced a program to provide employees with more training and resources to improve the work environment.

The effort follows a training program that launched last year and has since been completed by 95% of the burger giant’s U.S. operators.

“There is an important conversation around safe and respectful workplaces in communities throughout the U.S. and around the world,” Chris Kempczinski, president of McDonald’s USA, said in a statement. “Together with our franchisees, we have a responsibility to take action on this issue and are committed to promoting positive change.”

The goal is for each of McDonald’s 2,000 U.S. franchisees to implement the program in their restaurants, said Dorothy Stingley, a member of the NFLA’s executive team and president of McDonald’s Women Operators Network.

“People come to work at a McDonald’s because they want the chance to be part of a community and grow as individuals,” Stingley said. “Our job as employers is to make that possible while fostering an environment where those ambitions are never compromised by concerns of safety.”

The company announced the program as it faces growing pressure to address working conditions in its restaurants, and as labor advocates such as Fight for $15 highlight various problems—most recently allegations of sexual harassment.

Members of Congress have also publicly asked McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook for more information on alleged sexual harassment inside its restaurants. News reports and social media have also highlighted problems at various other fast-food restaurants.

And numerous local jurisdictions have started taking action, too, with many of them requiring sexual harassment training, for instance.

Critics said the company’s training program isn’t enough.

“The resulting training, announced today, might be good PR, but it isn’t a solution,” Fight for $15, the American Civil Liberties Union and Futures Without Violence said in a joint statement.

“Training workers to know right from wrong is meaningless if workers who report misconduct are ignored, or worse, punished.” The statement said that if McDonald’s were serious about sexual harassment, it would “meet with the people who face sexual harassment in McDonald’s restaurants, hear their stories, and together with them, craft real solutions.”

But the program also comes as McDonald’s and other restaurant companies grapple with persistently low unemployment that makes finding workers difficult and costly.

Labor costs have been rising steadily at restaurant chains in recent years, and more operators believe finding ways to keep workers around is the best overall strategy.

Starting in October, restaurant supervisors and crew members will go through a combination of interactive and computer-based training programs and in-person discussions on mitigating workplace violence and creating a “safe and respectful workplace.”

They will also receive training on unconscious biases, anti-bullying and “bystander” training that reviews bystander scenarios, power dynamics and mitigation tactics.

The company and operators will also take feedback from the discussions and programs to enhance the training in future years.

The training effort follows earlier policy changes, including an updated policy on discrimination, harassment and retaliation prevention in January. The company worked with anti-sexual violence organization RAINN on that policy.

It also created an intake hotline franchisees may offer to their workers to deal with employment concerns and vowed to improve the representation of women at all levels of the company.

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