McDonald's to mandate anti-harassment training worldwide

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FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2016, file photo, Chris Kempczinski, then-incoming president of McDonald's USA, speaks during a presentation at a McDonald's restaurant in New York's Tribeca neighborhood. On Wednesday, April 14, 2021, McDonalds said the company will mandate worker training to combat harassment, discrimination and violence in its restaurants worldwide starting in 2022. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

McDonald’s said Wednesday that it will mandate worker training to combat harassment, discrimination and violence in its restaurants worldwide starting next year.

The training will be required for 2 million workers at 39,000 stores worldwide.

“It’s really important that we be very clear: A safe and respectful workplace where people feel like they’re going to be protected is critically important for our business,” McDonald’s President and CEO Chris Kempczinski said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s just what society is expecting.”

The change is part of a larger reckoning over sexual harassment at the world’s largest burger chain. At least 50 workers have filed charges against the company over the last five years, alleging physical and verbal harassment and, in some cases, retaliation when they complained. The problem wasn’t confined to restaurants. In November 2019, McDonald’s fired its former CEO Steve Easterbrook after he acknowledged having a relationship with an employee.

Kempczinski, who joined McDonald’s in 2015, said the company needs to set expectations and then continually refer to them, especially since staff turnover in restaurants can be high.

“If you’re not constantly talking about values and keeping them in the fore, if you get complacent, then perhaps they’re not as obvious to people or they’re not as inspiring as they could be,” he said.

McDonald’s restaurants worldwide — 93% of which are owned by franchisees — will be required to meet the new standards starting in January 2022. They must also collect feedback on the store’s work environment from employees and managers and share those results with staff. Corporate evaluations will consider whether employees feel safe, both physically and emotionally, Kempckinski said.

In legal filings, McDonald’s workers have complained about unwanted touching, lewd comments, verbal abuse and physical assaults while on the job. In some cases, workers accused managers of ignoring their complaints or retaliating by giving them fewer shifts or transferring them to other stores.