In a 2006 article by Mike Gibson, which appeared in Western Mail, the author has raised the dubious standards of ethics followed by one of the biggest names in the business world, McDonalds. Last year, a 16-year-old girl Sarah took McDonalds to court when she accused her employers at one outlet of treating her like a ‘salve’. What makes this case significant and almost critical is the absurdity of double standards of ethics followed by large firms when dealing with customers and their own employees. They have one policy for customers and another for employees and in between all this, ethics really becomes a laughingstock. Firms usually have no idea what ethics really means. This is indeed sad as is clear from the article where Sarah narrates her horrible and highly humiliating work experience at McDonalds.
Sarah expressed her complete disillusionment and chagrin at the way she was treated by her supervisor- who could curse and humiliate his employees right in front of other employees and customers. This was indeed a very sad example of double standards of so-called business ethics that McDonalds has. The firm has been in the limelight for several years due to its infamous policies connected with ethics. McDonalds came under attack for indirectly promoting obesity among children with its fattening happy meals, which are low on nutrition and big on junk.
McDonalds has however done very little to improve its image. While Sarah lost her case on a minor technical point, this case helped in highlighting the issue of dubious ethical policies of such large firms and the impact that has on the employees. Sarah’s father stated that this experience was so horrifying for the young girl that she refused to go back to work at all. The senior management should have taken the disparaging remarks made by the supervisor more seriously but that was sadly not to be because supervisor only received a shallow warning. He was not dismissed or even suspended. Instead he continued to work at the same place with the same employees while Sarah lost her job where she was making paltry 4-pounds an hour.
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Sarah is by no means an isolated case of mistreatment at McDonalds, the poor ethical policies are also an issue with the franchisees of the firm as one Rod Hackett wrote, “Despite the corporation's continued assurances of the relationship with its franchisees being that of a "partnership", it became clear it was content to trample on their franchisee "partners", to ensure its own ongoing success.”
Similarly there are numerous lawsuits, resolved and pending both, against McDonalds and each one of them is concerned with poor ethical policies of the firm. No only has the firm mistreated its employees and franchisees, it has also violated ethical laws of representation and truth in many cases thus betraying its customers blatantly. In one such case, the controversy erupted when McDonalds falsely sold its fries as 100% vegetarian product when they had been cooked with beef flavoring. This controversy took the world by storm because while McDonalds was known for its fries, most people were consuming it as vegetarian product, which they clearly were not.
In 2002, the case rocked the very foundation of the firm especially in India where a large majority is vegetarian. After 11 months of fierce courtroom battle, the defendants decided to settle the case for $10 million along with an apology to the vegetarian and religious groups.
Such unabashed violation of ethical policies reflects the firm’s utter disregard for the sentiments of people and the community that it works with. There is no such thing as ethics in the business done by McDonalds because the firm has regularly been focusing on variety of unethical means to expand its business. It would offer upsize meals even to obese people knowing very well that such an action would bring more money but would hurt the health of its customers.
McDonalds thus needs to become more socially responsible by following general ethical policies religiously. These and other similar cases should be seen as a wake up call by the firm and also by its customers who should completely refuse to purchase its products unless McDonalds does something to improve its badly tarnished image.
Mike Gibson. Tells of Abuse at McDonald's. Western Mail. May 4, 2006. p. 13.
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