Chicago McDonald's workers claim to be at 'daily risk' from dangerous customers

Chicago McDonald's workers claim to be at 'daily risk' from dangerous customers

Cooks and cashiers at 13 Chicago-area McDonald’s restaurants filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the chain, alleging an “epidemic of violence that is emblematic of a systemwide crisis for the company.”

Seventeen workers at locations across the city accused the fast food giant of being aware of the daily security risks they face but continuing to make decisions that jeopardize worker safety, according to a statement. 

“The incidents described in this complaint are not random or unforeseeable,” the suit argues. “Rather, they are part of a citywide and nationwide pattern at McDonald’s restaurants. Further, they are the result of choices made by McDonald’s that undermine safety.”

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The lawsuit alleges that workers “face a daily risk of violence while at work” and lists a series of reported incidents, including a customer jumping over the counter and threatening workers with a gun; a customer beating a worker with a wet-floor sign; customers exposing their genitals to employees and a customer urinating on a worker.

The staff members also note in the lawsuit that the McDonald’s restaurants in Chicago are greatly impacted by the city’s violence, stating there have been more than 20 phone calls made to 911 in a single day from area stores.

“Police found a dead body in my store’s bathroom — there was blood everywhere,” plaintiff Sonia Acuña said in a statement. “McDonald’s never provided any safety training or offered any support for the trauma I’ve suffered. We shouldn’t have to put ourselves in harm’s way just to support our families. That’s why we’re suing McDonald’s today — because it’s life or death for us.”

The suit alleges McDonald’s has policies in place that undermine worker safety, such as keeping stores open overnight despite spikes in violence. Another example states that McDonald’s denies workers assigned to clean bathrooms the ability to lock doors or post out-of-service signs, leaving them vulnerable to sexual violence.

Danny Rosenthal, the lead attorney representing the McDonald’s workers, said in a statement that the massive company has failed to protect employees at “a systemic level.”

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“Throughout the country, McDonald’s workers are regularly threatened, assaulted, and injured by customers,” Rosenthal said. “You only need to do a Google news search for McDonald’s and crime to find hundreds of examples. The Chicago area is a prototypical case.”

“McDonald’s takes seriously its responsibility to provide and foster a safe working environment for our employees, and along with our franchisees, continue to make investments in training programs that uphold safe environments for customers and crew members," McDonald's Corporation said in a statement to The Hill. "In addition to training, McDonald’s maintains stringent policies against violence in our restaurants.”

This is not the first time workers have called on McDonald’s to curb violence or harassment against workers. Employees from restaurants in 10 cities across the country went on strike last September in an effort to get the company to strengthen its policies against sexual harassment in the workplace.

Strike organizers cited the "Me Too" movement and the company's lack of response to 10 complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging sexual harassment.

Updated at 1:55 p.m.