Racism, Sexual Abuse and Homophobia: BBC Investigation Expose Toxic Working Atmosphere at British McDonald’s


The CEO of the British branch of the fast food chain McDonald’s has apologised after more than 100 former employees testified in a BBC investigation that they were victims of sexual harassment, racism and homophobia.


The British public broadcaster launched an investigation into working conditions at the fast food chain a few months ago after McDonald’s signed an agreement with the British Commission on Equality and Human Rights in which they pledged to protect their employees against sexual harassment. There was talk of a zero-tolerance policy, and employees would have to undergo special training. McDonald’s also indicated that it was strongly convinced they were doing well in sexual harassment.

But the BBC’s investigation has now revealed a very different story. They spoke to current and former employees, and over a hundred allegations emerged. Of these, 31 related to sexual abuse, 78 to sexual harassment, 18 to racism and 6 to homophobia.

For example, a 17-year-old employee testified that a 20-year-old colleague threw racist accusations at her and asked if he could show her his penis. He wanted to make “black and white” babies. Another former 17-year-old Plymouth employee was strangled by an executive and sent explicit images.

A manager in Cheshire allegedly pressured new employees, all teenagers, to have sex with him. And an Essex employee was confronted with anti-Semitism. At one site in Wales, male employees had a bet to see who could go to bed with a new worker first. And at the Northern Ireland site, sexual relations between employees were so natural that they even experienced an outbreak of sexually transmitted gonorrhoea.

The list goes on for a while, causing shock in the UK to the findings of the BBC. Several employees approached their managers but were often not heard. McDonald’s is one of the largest employers in the UK. Over 170,000 people work in the 1,450 locations, three-quarters of whom are between 16 and 25 years old. For many, it is their first job ever.

Alistair Macrow, the chief executive of McDonald’s in the United Kingdom and Ireland, apologised to his employees after hearing the news. He said there is “simply no place for harassment, abuse or discrimination” at the company. “Each of McDonald’s UK’s 177,000 employees deserves to work in a safe, respectful and inclusive environment. We have fallen short sometimes, and we sincerely apologise for that.”

“We will investigate all allegations, and any proven violations of our Code of Conduct will be subject to the most severe sanctions we can legally impose, up to and including termination.”

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