The BBC recently uncovered over 100 cases of sexual and racial harassment and bullying in McDonald’s Restaurants in the UK. (1)
Examples included older men groping younger women, aged as young as 16 and talking to them inappropriately sexual ways. Some workers were also the victims of racial and homophobic language.
In one case a manager simply told the victim to ignore the man harassing with her and get on with her job. In other other cases McDonald’s moved managers accused of harassing people to other restaurants.
In some cases it was the victims who felt their harassment claims had not been dealt with quit their jobs.
Personally I thought sacking the people doing the harassing would be the most effective way to make a victim feel comfortable at work again. It would also send out a strong message to other workers NOT to engage in such behaviour.
The law obliges McDonald’s to protect workers from such harassment in the workplace. However the law protecting victims of work based harassment is rather weaker than you might think!
Weak protections for victims of workplace harassment?
If you look at legal advice sites for employers it is clear that sacking the people doing the harassing is a last resort. In fact I get the impression that even in severe cases the harassers will be encouraged to quit rather than sacked.
Most of the advice focuses on suggesting employers provided adequate training for staff in equality and providing a clear code of conduct.
I guess there are so many sexist, racist and homophobic employees that if employees took every case of harassment seriously they’d be sacking a lot of people.
I imagine companies are also reluctant to sack harassers because of the investment they have made in them and the costs of rehiring.
This might also explain why there is so much focus on covering the employers’ in case a victim claims compensation against them.
It seems the legal advice surrounding dealing with harassment is more about saving companies money rather than protecting victims.
This material is relevant to the Crime and Deviance module in the second year of A-level sociology.