Human Rights and Respectful Workplaces

Why It Matters


McDonald’s and our Franchisees are committed to fostering environments where everyone is equally empowered to realize their full potential. Upholding human rights and cultivating respectful workplaces protects the integrity of our brand and fuels our success. It’s the right way to do business.


The basis of our entire business is that we are ethical, truthful and dependable.
These words are as relevant today as they were when spoken by McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc, in 1958.


We're passionate about people and are committed to prioritizing safety, nurturing talent and developing leaders in our offices, owned restaurants and communities around the world, while supporting our Franchisees to do the same.

In addition, McDonald’s has a complex global supply chain with thousands of direct suppliers employing more than a million people in over 100 countries. A supply chain of this scale gives us an important responsibility to only do business with suppliers that respect the fundamental rights of their employees and partners. Learn more about our Supply Chain Human Rights here.

Our Strategy


McDonald’s has always been a people business. At the end of 2020, we employed approximately 200,000 people worldwide, including our Company staff, and crew at our Company-owned and operated restaurants. In addition, more than two million people worked at franchised McDonald’s restaurants globally. With our global reach, fostering safe, inclusive and respectful workplaces wherever we do business is integral to McDonald’s, and has been for more than 60 years.

Our commitment to respect our people and their rights is defined in several documents:


These standards, principles and policies work together to reinforce a culture of integrity and respect and are foundational to how we serve our communities, our people and our customers around the globe. They apply to McDonald’s Corporation and our wholly owned subsidiaries worldwide.

Our Human Rights Policy (the “Policy”) is informed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and guided by internationally recognized standards, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the International Bill of Human Rights and the principles set out in the International Labor Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Where the Company may impact the human rights of diverse and particularly vulnerable groups, such as migrant laborers, indigenous peoples, women or children, we are also guided by other international standards that elaborate on their rights. The Human Rights Policy is signed by our Chief Executive Officer.

The Global Principles Against Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation outline McDonald’s expectations around these critical topics and set expectations for addressing and preventing discrimination, harassment and retaliation for Company-owned restaurant employees and staff globally. To drive a best-in-class framework, a cross-functional internal working group developed our approach in partnership with external experts in corporate sustainability and women’s empowerment and drew guidance from international standards, including the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention.

In 2021, McDonald’s announced Global Brand Standards aimed at advancing a culture of safety for everyone working under the Arches and McDonald’s customers worldwide. All 39,000 McDonald’s restaurants across the globe, both Company-owned and franchised locations, will be required to adhere to these standards. McDonald’s is committed to supporting implementation of the Global Brand Standards with franchisees through a suite of policies, tools, trainings and reporting mechanisms.

Our commitment to respect human rights is also set out in our Standards of Business Conduct (PDF – 9.1 KB) (“Standards”), which apply to Company employees, and in our Supplier Code of Conduct (PDF – 1.4 KB) (“Code”), which applies to McDonald’s suppliers globally. Company staff are trained regularly on the Standards and are required to annually certify their understanding of and commitment to upholding them.


People come to work at a McDonalds because they want to be a part of a community and grow as individuals. Our job as employers is to make that possible while fostering an environment where those ambitions are never compromised by concerns of safety. As Franchisees, we’re developing comprehensive programs centered on building healthy relationships, trusting environments and resolving conflict to support our people in all facets of their lives – at work, at home and out in their communities.
Dorothy Stingley, President of McDonald’s Women Operators Network, franchise owner and 36-year veteran of the McDonald’s business


Putting Our Commitments Into Practice

In 2018, we created a global cross-functional Human Rights Working Group, which oversees implementation of the Policy and improves our procedures and practices. McDonald’s Chief Global Impact Officer, in partnership with the Chief People Officer, is ultimately responsible for our corporate human rights efforts. The Public Policy & Strategy Committee of the Board of Directors also has oversight of human capital management matters affecting the Company.

To help employees understand their rights and their duty to respect the rights of others, the Company offers training to all employees on the Policy. Both our Policy and training are available in 15 languages.

In addition to online training, in 2019 senior leadership received in-person training in partnership with an external human rights consultancy.


Global Brand Standards

We recognize that developing respectful workplaces, where everyone’s rights are recognized, is an ongoing process of continuous improvement. We know we have more work to do. We are committed to regularly assessing our approach, and engaging with relevant stakeholders to improve our monitoring, analysis and remediation of human rights impacts in order to be more transparent and effective in supporting people.

The Global Brand Standards extend requirements to all Company-owned and franchised restaurants. The standards are required and all restaurants will be assessed and held accountable in accordance with the applicable McDonald’s market’s business evaluation processes starting in January 2022. The Global Brand Standards prioritize actions in four areas: harassment, discrimination and retaliation prevention; workplace violence prevention; restaurant employee feedback; and health and safety. These standards were informed by input from perspectives across the system, a cross-functional global team and reviews of global market practices.


Ensuring Fair Reporting Processes

We take seriously our responsibility to act with due diligence to avoid infringing on the rights of others and to address any human rights impacts should they occur. This includes encouraging honest communication with managers and human resource representatives, when appropriate, and as well as providing anonymous channels for employees to report ethics or human rights concerns. Company employees can raise concerns via an anonymous global channel, the Business Integrity Line – staffed by a live operator from an independent company – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This is complemented by additional reporting channels in many markets.

We take seriously all concerns that are raised. We will not impede state-based grievance processes via our employee system and we do not require employees to waive their right to use such external mechanisms to participate in our hotline. We do not tolerate retaliation of any kind against anyone who reports an issue and do not tolerate unlawful threats, intimidation, physical or legal attacks against human rights defenders. We provide access to remediation and encourage our business partners to do the same, and recognize that this commitment should not obstruct access to other remedies.

Each of our internationally owned markets has HR staff that are responsible for handling concerns in an appropriate and timely manner. This process may include investigating complaints, interviewing witnesses, reviewing documentation and determining next steps. 

For example, in the U.S. market, there are several reporting mechanisms available. Company-owned restaurant employees may report concerns or complaints to their restaurant’s General Manager or Ops consultant, HR Consulting or HR manager, or the Business Integrity Line. We also provide Company-owned restaurant employees with third-party Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) such as the McResource Line and the Employee Resource Connection. These EAPs offer services such as counseling, referrals and other support, and they are free and confidential.

Additionally, in the U.S. market, the Company offers Franchisees a third-party managed hotline. This hotline supplements what Franchisees already offer their employees and provides callers with another anonymous way to file a concern with their employer. We encourage Franchisees to implement a shared values commitment to workplace safety that includes a mutual understanding and acknowledgment of their responsibility in ensuring a safe, respectful and inclusive environment for their employees.


Preventing Forced Labor

McDonald’s is committed to ethical recruitment in our employment practices. We prohibit direct or indirect fees or costs being charged to those seeking employment with, or who are employed by the Company for the services directly related to recruitment for temporary or permanent job placement, unless legally permissible and within the legal limit. This includes where we may use private recruitment services, a labor broker or employment agent, or where we perform recruitment activities directly. 

Even where such fees or costs are legally permissible and within the legal limit, our policies and practices are designed to ensure that no one is indebted to the Company or to a recruiter, labor broker or employment agent in a manner that prohibits the individual from freely leaving his or her employment. Likewise, we do not retain employees’ original government-issued identification, passport or work permit as a condition of employment.1

The Company provides any agreements, whether oral or in writing, in a language understood by the person agreeing to be bound and expects that any recruiter, labor broker or employment agent will do the same and will be responsible for ensuring that the agreement is understood by the person agreeing to be bound.

We do not engage in human trafficking or exploitation, or import goods tainted by slavery or human trafficking. The Company is committed to the elimination of any forced labor in our business and our supply chain. The McDonald’s Supplier Code of Conduct applies to our suppliers and is aligned with these goals and standards.

We are also committed to preventing forced labor and support the goals of the UK and Australian Modern Slavery Acts. McDonald’s UK published its first UK Modern Slavery Act statement in 2017. The Company does not use any form of slave, forced, bonded, indentured or involuntary prison labor.


Maintaining Respectful and Inclusive Contractual Practices

The Company is committed to diversity, equal opportunity and an inclusive workplace culture. This commitment is fundamental to the way we do business and we embed it in our policies and practices. We further recognize that maintaining our commitment will require ongoing reflection on and evolution of these policies and practices. In this regard, we are also providing greater transparency regarding our approach to certain contractual arrangements we may enter into with Company employees based in the United States. Specifically, arbitration, noncompetition and nondisclosure covenants have come under public scrutiny where their overbroad application may result in inequities. With this in mind, we limit our use of such agreements as follows: 

  • We do not and will not, as a condition of employment, require mandatory arbitration of harassment and discrimination claims.

  • While leadership within the officer level, representing less than 10% of the employee population in 2019, sign noncompetition covenants, we do not require as a condition of employment any employee below the officer level to sign post-termination, noncompetition covenants, except in very limited situations as authorized by the General Counsel for an employee who has unique skills, knowledge or access to intellectual property, trade secrets or highly confidential customer information that would provide a competitor with an advantage (e.g., complex knowledge regarding menu innovation or critical technology applications or systems).

  • In the event that McDonald’s seeks a nondisclosure covenant in connection with the settlement of a harassment or discrimination claim brought by an employee or former employee against an officer of McDonald’s Corporation, we will provide notice of such arrangement to the Board of Directors to ensure the Board has appropriate oversight.


Helping Support the Sustainable Development Goals

Through our efforts to create respectful workplaces, we aim to help support the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a global agenda to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all, in particular:

Our Actions

Identifying, Preventing and Addressing Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation in the U.S.

We have taken several steps over the past few years to strengthen our approach in the U.S. market. This includes our work with RAINN (the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the U.S.) to update our U.S. Policy against Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation. This policy sets out expectations on workplace conduct, manager responsibilities, employee resources and our investigation process. The policy applies to all company-owned restaurant and staff employees. We have shared the policy with our franchisees and encourage them to use it, along with other resources, to continue to support safe and respectful work environments in their restaurants.

To enhance our restaurant training, we launched an initiative in partnership with the U.S. National Franchisee Leadership Alliance (NFLA) in 2019. The program's aim is to educate and empower people working at McDonald's brand restaurants across the country with important resources and training that support building healthy relationships and trusting work environments. The program is a combination of interactive and computer-based trainings on various topics, including harassment, discrimination, and retaliation and workplace violence mitigation. The training is required for company-owned restaurant employees and has been made available to U.S. franchisees for use in their organizations.

These training modules include:


  • Mitigating Workplace Violence
  • Safe and Respectful Workplace
  • Anti-Bullying
  • Bystander

We have also taken steps over the past few years to provide robust training to U.S. staff employees. For example, in 2020, we provided respectful workplace training aimed at the prevention and mitigation of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation in our US corporate offices, as well as a separate training called “Speak Up,” which is aimed at encouraging employees to raise and report issues and guiding them on how to do so.

By taking actions to strengthen our policy, training offerings and reporting mechanisms, we work to create and sustain a culture of trust where employees feel safe, valued and respected.


We may hold copies and/or temporarily hold onto such documents for no longer than 24 hours and to the extent reasonably necessary to complete legitimate administrative and immigration processing and/or comply with local law.