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Democratic senators press McDonald’s on workplace violence


A group of Democratic U.S. senators urged McDonald’s Corp. to take steps to protect employees from workplace violence and asked the U.S. Department of Labor to fully investigate an employee complaint about violent incidents.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration should conduct a full investigation into a complaint filed on May 20 by a group of Chicago-area employees of the company, the senators said in a letter to Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta on Monday.

The complaint detailed workplace violence incidents involving interactions with customers, including customers throwing hot coffee, threatening employees with guns and more.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act’s general duty clause requires employers to furnish employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

“Clearly, McDonald’s is not meeting this requirement,” the senators said.

OSHA did not treat the submission as a formal complaint and emailed the franchisee rather than conducting a formal investigation, according to the letter.

“McDonalds can and must do more to protect its employees, but employers will not take seriously their obligations to provide a safe workplace if OSHA does not enforce workers rights to a hazard-free workplace,” the letter stated.

McDonald’s employees have experienced 721 incidents of workplace violence in the past three years — 281 of which resulted in at least one physical injury and 288 of which occurred between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., according to a recent report by the National Employment Law Project that examined media coverage of workplace violence incidents against employees of the fast-food giant.

Separately, the senators sent a letter to McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook to urge the company to immediately develop a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan, regardless of whether the employees work at company-owned or franchises restaurants.

“Your company is obligated to provide every employee who wears a McDonald’s uniform a workplace free of threats, harassment and assaults,” the letter stated.

McDonald’s has announced its intention to provide workplace safety training at company-owned restaurants, but the senators stated that does not go far enough because it does not include franchise restaurants — 95% of McDonald’s 14,000 restaurants are franchises, according to the letter.

The company should also “actively encourage” employees to dial 911 when they feel unsafe.

“Reports that managers have discouraged outreach to emergency personnel are despicable,” the senators stated. “In addition, the company should consider reducing its hours, which are the longest in the fast-food sector and directly connected to the incidences of violence at your restaurants.”

The senators asked for a detailed response about its workplace violence prevention plan to be filed by July 19.

“We believe every person working in McDonald’s restaurants deserves to do so in a safe and respectful environment and, along with our franchisees, have invested in programs that promote safe environments for customers and crew members,” a McDonald’s spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “This includes clear policies that strictly prohibit violence, threats of violence and other conduct that jeopardizes or harms the safety of employees and others in the workplace and during work-related activities. Throughout the rest of the year in our corporate-owned U.S. restaurants, we will roll out national training initiatives that we’ve developed, focused on employees’ safety in the workplace to further ensure that anyone who comes into a McDonald’s feels safe, secure and respected.”

A spokesperson for OSHA could not be immediately reached for comment.

Signers of the department letter included Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Patty Murray of Washington state, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, while all but Sen. Durbin also signed the letter sent to the company. A spokesperson for Sen. Durbin could not be immediately reached for comment.

Also in May, McDonald’s Corp. was accused in 25 lawsuits and regulatory charges of condoning sexual harassment in the workplace and retaliating against employees who speak up.




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