A survey conducted this past January by the nonprofit Stop Street Harassment found that 81% of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime. Given this troubling statistic, it is not surprising that a recent series of twenty-five sexual harassment complaints have been filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against McDonald’s Corporation. These complaints allege the sexual harassment of female employees by male coworkers and managers. In response to these filings McDonald’s CEO released a statement on May 19, 2019, committing the company to “ensuring a harassment and bias-free workplace” for its employees. Although these words may read well on paper, it does little to explain why most of the claims of sexual harassment filed against the corporation also allege retaliation after the victims reported the sexual harassment to their supervisors.
By far claims of sexual harassment in the food service industry are not limited to McDonald’s. According to a report released by the National Women’s Law Center, the accommodations and food services industries are among the highest-ranking industries for total number of sexual harassment charges filed. The report also indicates that more than one in three women who filed such charges against their employers also alleged retaliation by their employers for doing so; a circumstance well familiar to a McDonald’s employee named Jamelia Fairley.
In September 2016, Jamelia Fairley began working for a McDonald’s store in Florida as a crew member. In her EEOC complaint filed against McDonald’s Corporation, Fairley alleges that she endured constant sexual jokes and remarks directed at her as well as at her young daughter who worked there as well. She also endured unwanted touching, groping, and physical contact at the workplace. Her complaint alleges that when she reported this harassment to her store manager, her work hours were reduced from about 25 hours per week to about 7-8 hours per week.