- A + E
- McDonald’s workers around the country are speaking out against sexual harassment.
- Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson spoke with three of these advocates in her documentary series “Breaking the Silence.”
- The current and former McDonald’s employees said that the fast-food giant and its franchisees failed to stamp out harassment in the restaurants.
- “It continues to happen because it’s overlooked,” former McDonald’s employee Kim Lawson told Carlson.
Gretchen Carlson took on Roger Ailes and Fox News over sexual harassment in 2016.
And now she’s working to document what she called the “epidemic” of sexual harassment in the United States. Her new docuseries “Breaking the Silence” premiered on Monday and featured interviews with McDonald’s workers Tanya Harrell, Kim Lawson, and Kristi Maisenbach.
All three women described dealing with harassment while working at the fast-food giant. McDonald’s did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on their claims.
“I was really surprised the first time I encountered sexual harassment at McDonald’s,” Lawson told Carlson in the episode. “I thought like if you were going to be sexually harassed it would have to be on the streets or something like that or you had to be maybe a celebrity or in big business or something like that. That’s the only place I had heard about that ever happening. Now I know it happens everywhere.”
By filing lawsuits, participating in protests, and calling attention to the issue in the media, Harrell, Lawson, and Maisenbach have joined the ranks of the scores of workers taking action against McDonald’s over sexual harassment.
“Telling your story and telling your truth is the most important thing,” Harrell told Carlson.
“Breaking the Silence” also investigated the role of the company’s franchise-based model when it comes to workplace harassment. Most of the approximately 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants are owned by franchisees. In the episode, Carlson noted that the McDonald’s corporate office and franchise owners kept directing her back to one another as she attempted to request a comment.
She managed to track down the owner of one such franchise: John DeVera. Lawson was fired from one of DeVera’s Kansas City, Missouri, restaurants after she spoke out about her experience.
DeVera declined to comment and told Carlson and her crew that they couldn’t film in the parking lot.
“The company isn’t taking responsibility and the franchise owners aren’t taking responsibility and so you end up with employees being caught in the middle,” Carlson said, reflecting on the exchange.
Lawson has worked with the worker advocacy group Fight for 15 in order to organize trainings on sexual harassment for fast food. She told Carlson that she wants McDonald’s to start taking the issue of sexual harassment “seriously.”
“It’s not a joke,” she said. “It’s happening. It continues to happen because it’s overlooked.”
Lawson, who is a single mother to a toddler, added that she’s taking a stand for her daughter.
“I don’t want her to ever be scared to stand up for herself,” she said.