CHICAGO (AP) - A group of employees from 13 McDonald's restaurants in Chicago filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging that the company's drive for profits puts workers at "daily risk" of physical attack by dangerous customers.
In the lawsuit filed in Cook County court, the 17 workers say McDonald's has failed to protect them from what they say is a "citywide and nationwide" pattern of violence and that police respond to more than 20 911 calls every day regarding Chicago McDonald's restaurants. They cite several examples of the violence, including an incident in which a customer beat an employee with a sign and another in which a customer urinated on a worker.
"McDonald's has failed, at a systemic level, to protect its workers from violence in the workplace," said Danny Rosenthal, an attorney for the workers. "Throughout the country, McDonald's workers are regularly threatened, assaulted, and injured by customers."
McDonald's did not respond to the lawsuit's specific allegations, but it said in a statement that, "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."
The lawsuit contends that in its effort to increase profits, McDonald's has taken steps that have made working at its restaurants more dangerous. For example, it alleges that by lowering and tearing down physical barriers at check-out counters, the company has made it easier for dangerous customers to attack workers. McDonald's has also ignored the "recommended practice" of designing drive-thru windows so that customers cannot crawl through them, according to the lawsuit.
Because McDonald's does not allow workers to lock bathroom doors when they are sent there to clean them, the company puts workers at greater risk of sexual violence, the lawsuit asserts. One of the plaintiffs "was cleaning inside the men's bathroom when men entered and exposed themselves to her in a sexual manner," it states.
The lawsuit marks the latest in a string of legal problems for the fast food giant. McDonald's has faced protests and dozens of lawsuits over what workers call sexual harassment at its restaurants and the company's failure to address their complaints. Earlier this month, a former employee sued McDonald's and one of its Michigan franchisees, alleging that the general manager did nothing to stop a co-worker from groping and physically assaulting her. And just days before that lawsuit was filed, McDonald's fired its CEO, Steve Easterbrook, for having a consensual romantic relationship with an employee.