Andrew Puzder, nominee to be Secretary of Labor under President-elect Donald Trump, has overseen a fast food company that routinely treats its employees poorly, according to a new report from Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. CKE Restaurants, which operates Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr., Green Burrito, and Red Burrito, has exposed workers to wage and hour violations, discrimination, and sexual harassment.
The report is based on a survey of 564 CKE employees and additional interviews with 18 respondents. ROC United reached out to employees via social media , and of those who completed the survey, 77 percent were women, 22 percent were men, and 2 percent were listed as “transgender and other.” The results are not flattering for Puzder.
Sexual harassment is a significant problem in the fast food industry, but it’s rampant at Puzder’s company. ROC United data says 40 percent of women in the industry experience “unwanted sexual behaviors at work;” at CKE, that number jumps to 66 percent. Forty-three percent of those surveyed report “pressure for dates” from supervisors, and 30 percent of women report “deliberate touching, leaning over, cornering, or pinching.” One respondent said she experiences “sexual harassment from customers almost every day.”
Fourteen percent of respondents say they have faced some form of discrimination “in relation to promotion, discipline, or pay.” Discrimination based on age (40 percent) was the most common report, followed by race (33 percent), gender (20 percent), sexual orientation (15 percent), language (12 percent), and religion (9 percent). Forty-eight percent say they have experienced other types of discrimination.
Puzder has spoken out against minimum wage and overtime regulations, and he has supported the idea of eliminating jobs with automated restaurants free of human employees. CKE employees say he has failed to enforce wage laws as well. Twenty-six percent of respondents claim they have been forced to work off the clock, and 32 percent say they have not been paid time-and-a-half for work that exceeds 40 hours in a week. Sick leave at the company appears to be almost non-existent, and 79 percent of those surveyed report instances of preparing food while sick.
“Not only myself but almost every employee has gotten the flu at some point because we were starting to get sick,” one Carl’s Jr. shift leader said, “but because no one would cover our shifts, we got worse at work and got each other even more sick.”
Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of ROC United, believes the culture at CKE proves Puzder is unfit to be Labor Secretary. “America’s 12 million restaurant workers — tipped workers, in particular — are among the nation’s most vulnerable,” Jayaraman said in a statement announcing the survey’s results. “The job of the Secretary of Labor is to protect our nation’s most vulnerable workers, including tipped workers. ... Quite simply, Puzder is the last person that should fill this role.”
ROC United is an organization that seeks to “improve wages and working conditions for the nation’s restaurant workforce.” It claims to have conducted more than 8,000 surveys of restaurant workers and says the response from CKE employees was “unprecedented.”
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