When I started working at McDonald's I was nervous as anyone would be starting a new job. I was shy greeting customers and cautious counting the change. I worked slowly over the hot grills because I was afraid of being burned. I anticipated these little anxieties before I started work. But what I didn't anticipate -- and what no one should have to prepare for -- was my supervisor sexually harassing me on a daily basis.
It seemed to begin the moment I walked in the door. Nearly every day, my shift manager would rub himself against me or try to grab my backside when he passed me. He would compliment my body and say he wanted to "do things" to me.
I asked him to leave me alone, but he didn't listen. So after a few weeks, I complained to my general manager. I waited for some kind of repercussion -- but nothing happened. Then one day, when I was working at the front counter, he came up from behind and put a cellphone photo of his genitals in front of me.
Dealing with daily harassment took a toll on my mental health and I constantly felt sick, angry and defenseless.
That was my breaking point, and I mustered up the courage to take my complaints to McDonald's corporate. Again, I waited for some kind of response, but I was ignored.
My story is all too common. A new survey shows 40 percent of women in fast food experience sexual harassment in the workplace, ranging from sexual jokes and groping to sexual assault.
Dealing with daily harassment took a toll on my mental health and I constantly felt sick, angry and defenseless. I knew what was happening was wrong, but no one in management seemed willing to help me. I needed the money, too. But eventually I realized I would rather ask family for help with rent and food than live under this kind of duress, and I quit.
According to the survey, many women experience similar feelings. Almost half of the women who had been harassed had negative emotional consequences, including feeling stressed out, depressed and afraid to come to work. And most women said they felt like they were on their own when it came to dealing with the problem.
Less than half of us report it to their employer. And it's no wonder: one out of five of us who does report harassment faces retaliation from our employers -- cutting our hours, changing our schedule or duties, even firing us.
We don't make a lot of money; I was paid only $8.50 an hour. Many of us have families to support. Our economic survival might depend on keeping quiet -- and that is beyond wrong.We are hard working. We don't make a lot of money; I was paid only $8.50 an hour. Many of us have families to support. Our economic survival might depend on keeping quiet -- and that is beyond wrong.
Women who work in fast food across the country are fed up with sexual harassment. We are determined to be ignored no longer. And so we are speaking out and filing complaints. I was among 15 McDonald's workers who announced Wednesday that we have filed federal sexual harassment charges against the company. We're also calling on McDonald's and other fast-food companies to fix the problems in their restaurants. They can tell employees what to wear, what time our managers can open and close our restaurants, and exactly how food must be prepared. So they should be able to make sure the women who work in their restaurants are safe too.
It's time fast-food companies like McDonald's acknowledge our cries for a safe work place. No one deserves what I went through -- or what so many other women in fast-food go through regularly. Sexual harassment should never be part of the job.
Cycei Monae worked as a cashier at a McDonald's restaurant in Flint, Michigan.