McDonald’s toxic work culture Supervisor convicted of sexual assault
In 2019, over 1,000 female McDonald’s workers alleged that they had been harassed by managers and supervisors.
This led to the company admitting that they had “fallen short”, and the decision to sign a legally binding agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in which it pledged to protect its staff from sexual harassment.
You can read my previous blog post about the toxic work culture in McDonald’s franchises here.
Since then, McDonald’s supervisor Geary Tolontino Fernandes has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a trainee when they were alone near the freezers of a McDonalds restaurant in Swindon in December 2022. Fernandes had initially argued that the contact had not been deliberate.
Despite Fernandes’ claim of innocence, his victim’s complaint was upheld, and he was yesterday charged, tried, and convicted. He is due to be sentenced on 28 September 2023.
The victim, who has been praised for her ‘remarkable bravery’ by local Crime Investigator Tina Willison, should feel vindicated by this result.
It is not an easy decision for victims of harassment to speak out and report incidents to the police. Junior staff are often in a vulnerable position – fearful of their jobs and livelihoods – should they report the harassment and it goes unheard or disbelieved.
The conviction of Geary Fernandes shows that the criminal legal system can prevail against individuals who abuse their position of power at work. I applaud the victim for having the courage to come forward and speak out in court – my work gives me firsthand insight into how genuinely difficult it can be to take such a brave first step in addressing injustice in this way.
There is more to be done to ensure that other complaints of harassment are properly investigated and, where appropriate, seen through to trial. McDonald’s, along with countless other companies, have a duty of care to their employees to ensure a safe working environment. If they fall short of this, systems must be in place, so victims feel able to report the abuse and are supported through the legal process – both criminal and civil.