You Don’t Fit Our Profile

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

McDonald’s is on legal fire after 10 former employees of a Boston-area franchise filed a complaint this week — they were fired for not fitting the color scheme the owner desired. Apparently “there are too many black people in the store.”

Supervisors allegedly used terms like bitch, ratchet and ghetto to describe African American workers and dirty Mexican for one Hispanic worker. The plaintiffs also said they were punished for rule infractions while white employees were not. If that’s not enough, managers “inappropriately touched female employees on their legs and buttocks; sent female employees sexual pictures; and solicited sexual relations from female employees.”

I think that pretty much hits every crappy race or gender related insult/issue you can lob into the void.

Worse, plaintiffs said when they contacted McDonald’s corporate office to complain about the discrimination and being fired, nothing was done. In a statement, one plaintiff said, “We asked McDonald’s corporate to help us get our jobs back, but the company told us to take our concerns to the franchisee — the same franchisee that just fired us. McDonald’s closely monitors everything we do, from the speed of the drive-through line, to the way we smile and fold customers’ bags — but when we try to tell the company that we’re facing discrimination, they ignore us and sat that it’s not their problem.”

I’ve had some fairly substantive dealings with McDonald’s over the years, and I feel comfortable saying I understand the company’s operating model and mission. I’ve visited the training organization and had in-depth talks with many of their executives, including their chief diversity officer. I would not say McDonald’s is the kind of organization to condone this sort of behavior. I hope its response was a mistake, an off day from whoever was answering the phone when these people called.

But if I were running the franchise division at McDonald’s, this shop’s owners would either lose their franchise, or be on a super-strict, disciplinary action plan. They would be monitored for years and subject to periodic investigation thereafter. In fact, that might not be a bad practice to put in place period to ensure these sorts of things don’t happen in the future.  

No person or company is perfect. So, of course, things happen. But it is unacceptable for any major organization to condone bad behavior from one of its subsidiaries. And it’s sad when an organization like McDonald’s, well known for a commitment to diversity and inclusive practices, allows a few bad apples to sully an otherwise solid reputation.