McDonald’s faces UK legal claim as sexual assault allegations intensify

McDonald’s faces a group legal claim and allegations over misconduct at UK franchises (Jonathan Brady/PA)
McDonald’s faces a group legal claim and allegations over misconduct at UK franchises (Jonathan Brady/PA)

McDonald’s faces intensifying pressure over its culture after the fast-food chain was hit by further allegations related to sexual assault, racism and bullying at franchises.

The head of the company’s UK business has now been summoned to answer questions from MPs at Parliament next week as a result.

It came after a law firm confirmed a group legal action has been launched in relation to assault and harassment allegations.

Alistair Macrow, chief executive of McDonald’s UK and Ireland, said the company is “determined to root out” behaviour which falls below expected standards.

The boss previously launched a programme of independent investigations, audits of its complaints procedure, reviews of its code of conduct and a number of full disciplinary hearings.

McDonald’s said the company is ‘determined to root out’ behaviour which falls below expected standards (Nick Potts/PA)

On Thursday, lawyers at Leigh Day said they were representing McDonald’s staff members who claimed they were “being groped and harassed almost routinely” while at the fast-food chain.

One client, who the law firm refers to as Rachel, said she tried to report the sexual harassment she experienced while employed by McDonald’s via email but did not receive a response.

The 17-year-old said she witnessed male colleagues making bets on who could sleep with new starters, experienced a manager touching her on her bottom and heard older male crew members making comments about her body, according to the claim.

The legal action comes after a BBC investigation earlier this year made public a raft of sexual abuse claims.

On Thursday, the broadcaster revealed a number of new allegations from workers who said they faced abuse and said around 160 people had got in touch since July with abuse claims.

The equality watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, launched a confidential hotline for reporting incidents related to McDonald’s earlier this year.

“We are concerned to hear about these latest allegations of harassment at McDonald’s,” it said on Thursday.

“We are considering a number of options on how to proceed with our ongoing legal agreement.

“Our priority remains ensuring that McDonald’s improve their practices and staff are protected from sexual harassment.”

Mr Macrow said: “While we are confident in the first steps we have taken, I am determined to understand what more we can do, and our efforts will need to be far reaching and constantly evolving.

“We know, however, that new processes will take time to embed fully in each of our 1,500 restaurants across the UK and Ireland.

“I am personally committed to ensuring all cases brought to our attention are investigated quickly and thoroughly.

“Where our standards have been breached, or where our processes fall short, I will drive change.

“I know it takes a great deal of personal courage to speak up and it is my top priority to ensure we act swiftly and decisively on what we hear.”