Report: McDonald’s Fails to Protect Workers from Gun Violence, Robberies, Attacks

Late-Night Hours, Lack of Training, Non-Existent Safety Procedures Leave Workers to ‘Defend Ourselves’

CHICAGO—As McDonald’s faces growing scrutiny and backlash over widespread allegations of sexual harassment, a new report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) uncovers an epidemic of workplace violence going beyond sexual assault at the burger giant’s stores, including shootings, robberies, physical and verbal altercations, and weapon brandishing that result in worker and customer injuries. A culture of routine violence is compounded by the company’s lack of violence prevention procedures to protect its workers.

Behind the Arches: How McDonald’s Fails to Protect Workers from Workplace Violence argues, after examining over 700 violent incidents at McDonald’s reported in the news over the past three years and interviewing workers employed at its stores, that the fast-food giant is failing in its legal and moral duty to provide employees a safe work environment.

“When there is a shooting or robbery or assault every day and a half at McDonald’s, protecting workers from workplace violence must be a company priority,” said Deborah Berkowitz, NELP’s worker health and safety program director and the author of the report, who previously served as chief of staff and then senior policy adviser for OSHA. “I’m horrified and appalled at the epidemic of violence at McDonald’s and the complete lack of training for its workers.”

McDonald’s long hours of operations—the longest among its national competitors—regularly put thousands of workers at risk for the high levels of violence associated with late-night retail.

Violent incidents occurring between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. at McDonald’s account for a disproportionate share—40%—of the total incidents covered by news media. Compared to other times of day, violent incidents were 40% more likely to occur during late-night hours than evening hours, and 145% more likely to occur late at night than in the morning or afternoon.

Particularly hazardous during late-night hours of operation, when stores are run by skeletal crews, are the McDonald’s stores with large drive-thru windows, which appear to make it easier for attempted robbers to gain access to the building even if lobbies are closed.

In a series of robberies in the St. Louis area in 2016, robbers took advantage of this vulnerability to enter and rob four different McDonald’s stores during late-night or early-morning hours of operation.

When McDonald’s stores experience violent incidents like robberies, workers often have not been trained in how to protect themselves.

“McDonald’s management should be really training us on how to deal with violent incidents, especially the cashiers who work face to face with the customers,” said Martina Ortega, a McDonald’s worker from Chicago. “We should be able to know where we need to run or what to do.”

Many stores also appear not to follow basic safety procedures around cash handling, visibility and incident reporting. And the company fails to equip its stores consistently with protective measures like accessible panic buttons and safe drive-thru windows to prevent, or at least minimize the severity of, violent incidents.

McDonald’s workers interviewed in the report paint a picture of dangerous workplace neglect: late-night hours, uneven or non-existent training, and a lack of systemic hazard controls. Workers at the burger chain also report that the company lacks protocol for post-incident follow-up.

Under OSHA’s general duty clause, employers are required to provide a safe work environment for employees that is free of known hazards. Despite this legal requirement, the report finds, there is little public information about any existing McDonald’s violence prevention or workplace safety programs.

“I have raised my concerns and complained to my managers, but they won’t do anything. McDonald’s won’t do anything,” said Sonia Acuña, a McDonald’s worker from Chicago. “We feel like we have to defend ourselves.”

Behind the Arches: How McDonald’s Fails to Protect Workers from Workplace Violence

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The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit Follow NELP on Twitter at @NelpNews.

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About the Author

Deborah Berkowitz

Worker Health and Safety Program Director, National Employment Law Project

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