McDonald’s Unveils New Global Standards to Prevent Harassment and Discrimination

    Starting next year, the chain will assess compliance and hold stores accountable.

    Fast Food | April 14, 2021 | Ben Coley
    McDonald's employee wearing a mask.
    McDonald's
    The guidelines will apply to all 39,000 stores across the globe.

    McDonald’s announced Wednesday that it will soon enforce "Global Brand Standards," or a new set of guidelines to protect employees and prevent violence, harassment, and discrimination.

    The Global Brand Standards prioritize four areas: harassment, discrimination, and retaliation prevention; workplace violence prevention; restaurant employee feedback; and health and safety. The process involves more training, annual crew and manager surveys, an action plan shared with employees, and an avenue for reporting complaints and concerns.

    The guidelines will apply to all 39,000 stores across the globe. Beginning next year, McDonald’s will assess compliance and hold restaurants accountable. The burger giant said the nine-month timeline allows each market to implement the new standards effectively. The Global Brand Standards were the end result of a cross-functional global team that reviewed global market practices and perspectives from across the McDonald’s system.

    “There are no short cuts to ensuring that people feel safe, respected and included at a McDonald’s restaurant. This work starts by taking big, intentional moves,” said CEO Chris Kempczinski in a statement. “Our new Global Brand Standards reinforce our commitment to living our values such that at every interaction, everyone is welcome, comfortable and safe.”

    The chain’s move comes more than a month after CBS News published a report investigating the abusive experiences of four employees who’ve either filed discrimination charges or lawsuits against the fast-food chain. In a survey of 800 female McDonald’s workers last year, 75 percent said they were sexually harassed at work, according to CBS. A spokesperson with the fast-food chain described the data as misleading and not representative of what’s happening inside stores.

    In response to the news, Kempczsinski asked for a workplace safety review conducted by McDonald’s U.S. President Joe Erlinger, International President Ian Borden, Global Chief People Officer Heidi Capozzi, and Chief Global Impact Officer Katie Fallon.

    McDonald’s said the Global Brand Standards will “help identify and scale best practices across the industry by setting a clear path for action and accountability.”

    “Change inevitably brings the need to adjust, to be open to learning and doing things differently, guided by our values,” Kempczsinski said in a letter to employees. “It’s not always easy, but it is essential to building trust, protecting the integrity of our brand, and driving our long-term success. In the coming weeks, months and years, I’m certain we’ll see the results of our hard work reflected in our culture and in our business.”

    Since becoming CEO in November 2019, Kempczsinski has attempted to change the alleged “boys club” culture that was rampant under former CEO Steve Easterbrook. McDonald’s has also had issues with racial discrimination. In 2020, multiple lawsuits from Black current and former franchisees—including former MLB player Herb Washington—accused McDonald’s of setting up Black operators to fail and giving preferential treatment to white franchisees. The chain categorically denied each of the allegations in the lawsuits.

    To improve leadership diversity, McDonald’s said in February that it would start tying executive compensation to achieving certain diversity goals. The brand wants to increase women in leadership from 37 percent to 45 percent by the end of 2025 and to reach gender parity by the end of 2030. The fast-food chain is also aiming to increase representation of minorities in leadership roles from 29 percent to 35 percent by 2025.