McDonald's hit for using Weinstein law firm for harassment advice

Last Updated Sep 19, 2018 8:25 AM EDT

Advocates are calling on McDonald's to drop the law firm defending the Weinstein Co. from the roster of those counseling the fast-food chain on its sexual harassment policy. The demand comes as McDonald's workers staged walkouts in cities across the U.S. to call attention to alleged harassment at some McDonald's restaurants and to protest what they say is inaction by the company.

The union-backed "Fight for $15" movement and other advocates urged McDonald's to stop using the workplace training unit of Seyfarth Shaw, a Chicago-based firm that defends companies facing workplace claims.

"It is absurd that in response to workers' demands to strengthen sexual harassment and abuse policies, McDonald's has chosen to hire Seyfarth Shaw at Work," Shaunna Thomas, executive director of the women's advocacy group UltraViolet, said in an emailed statement. "Men in positions of power — be they infamous film producers or supervisors at McDonald's — have absolutely no place in the workplace following a report of sexual abuse," Thomas added.

Seyfarth Shaw did not return requests for comment.

McDonald's did not specifically address its use of Seyfarth Shaw, but said in its own emailed statement that the company has "strong policies, procedures and training in place specifically designed to prevent sexual harassment." Further, the company has "engaged experts in the areas of prevention and response including RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), to evolve our policies," noted the chain.

A spokesperson for RAINN said the network confirmed the arrangement and said it looked forward to working with the fast-food chain.

Supported by organizations including the National Women's Law Center, McDonald's workers have lodged more than a dozen sexual harassment complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in recent years. The claims include groping and inappropriate comments by supervisors. 

Posts on social media showed workers staging protests, including McDonald's workers from Wisconsin joining a protest outside McDonald's Chicago headquarters.

According to McDonald's, any employees involved in the demonstrations had not walked off the job after clocking in for a shift. "We have not reported walk outs," the spokesperson emailed.

McDonald's workers had planned midday protests Tuesday in Chicago, Durham, N.C., Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Orlando, San Francisco and St. Louis.