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I’m one of 25 people who filed a sexual harassment complaint against McDonald’s. Here’s my story.

Here’s what happened when I reported — and why I am one of 25 people who filed a complaint.

McDonald’s workers and activists protest sexual harassment at the fast-food chain’s restaurants in September 2018 in Chicago.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

McDonald’s announced new policies this week addressing sexual harassment, just as workers across the country filed complaints alleging sexual comments, touching, and other inappropriate behavior at McDonald’s stores. For me, this announcement is too little, too late.

Here is the story I reported to the federal government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, joining 24 other workers making complaints against McDonald’s: In January, I was working at a McDonald’s in Kansas City, Missouri. Times were very tough financially, and I had kids to take care of — I was vulnerable, eager to accept offers of support from anyone willing to extend a helping hand.

So when a higher-up manager started taking interest in my home life, I was grateful. One day at work, he pulled me aside and asked if I was doing okay, and I opened up to him about my precarious financial situation. He responded that he’d do his best to get me a raise and maybe even a loan. I felt a glimmer of hope.

He soon told me he had money for me and I could retrieve it if I went to his house. I was suspicious and asked him what he wanted in return. He said he was just trying to be a friend. Nervous but nearly out of options, I went — but I recorded the conversation, just in case. When I arrived, my worst fears turned out to be true. He asked what I would “do” for him in exchange for cash and a raise. Perhaps a “quickie,” he said.

When I refused his advances, it became clear he would not be giving me any money or a raise. During my next shift, his attitude toward me completely changed. No longer friendly and helpful, he stood hovering over me, intimidating me. When I asked him to stop, he told me I needed an attitude adjustment.

After my shift, I tried to report his harassment. I was promised I wouldn’t have to work with that manager anymore — as long as I didn’t bring up the issue again.

Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. After I reported, it seemed that managers found any excuse to write me up, like not speaking loudly enough and wearing the wrong shirt for the drive-thru. I believe these write-ups were unfounded and based on behaviors I never saw anyone else get written up for.

I know what retaliation looks like. So I went to my immediate supervisor and voiced my concerns. She gave me the runaround, telling me she was no longer permitted to speak with me.

Frustrated, I searched for a number to call a McDonald’s corporate line in the break room; I didn’t find anything until I did a search online. But when I reported my harassment to McDonald’s corporate HR, instead of helping me, the representative gave me another number to call, which led me to a random McDonald’s franchise in Connecticut.

Finally, the retaliation became too much: It was constant criticism, unfounded write-ups, and even sabotaging me from doing my job properly. I could no longer stomach it and decided to leave before reaching my one-month mark — even though I desperately needed the job.

I’m not sure whether I’m more saddened or grateful that I’m not alone in this experience. I’m one of hundreds of women across the country who have been speaking out, filing charges, and even going on strike to get McDonald’s to stamp out the sexual harassment problem in its stores. But McDonald’s has neglected us, and the problem persists.

I’m devastated, but I’m not broken. And I’m done being silent. I’m telling my story because what happened to me should never happen to anyone — and McDonald’s is responsible for making sure of that.

I was ignored and punished when I reported my experience to McDonald’s, and there was little I could do on my own. But now I’m standing together with women who won’t tolerate this any longer. McDonald’s: It’s time for a change. You won’t stop hearing from us until you do.

Editor’s note: We reached out to McDonald’s for comment, and they told us they cannot provide a response to a discrimination claim. They directed us to their updated sexual harassment training and policy: “By strengthening our overall policy, creating interactive training, a third-party managed anonymous hotline and importantly, listening to employees across the system, McDonald’s is sending a clear message that we are committed to creating and sustaining a culture of trust where employees feel safe, valued and respected.”

Delisha Rivers is a fast-food worker in Kansas City, Missouri.


First Person is Vox’s home for compelling, provocative narrative essays. Do you have a story to share? Read our submission guidelines, and pitch us at firstperson@vox.com.

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