“I was personally crushed because what I’d done was what I’d thought was the correct thing to do, I’d called the police,” Hudson said.
“In my view, I’ve done the right thing. It was a kick in the guts to turn around and say I’d engaged in wilful and deliberate misconduct.”
After the union wrote to McDonald’s, Hudson received a second letter, on February 11, which asked her to attend a meeting on her return to work, but this time it stressed it would be “not disciplinary in nature”. Other staff who worked on the day also received letters requesting them to attend meetings.
Hudson said that complaints from multiple staff members had been made to McDonald’s management about sexual harassment at the store going back to early December.
“The store didn’t act on those complaints. They actively made the situation worse by giving the names of the people that came forward to the perpetrator,” Hudson said. “There has not been proper investigations into the complaints that have been made. They have not followed those procedures.”
McDonald’s did not answer detailed questions about what has happened at the Traralgon store. In a statement, the company said sexual harassment had no place at McDonald’s and it strived to create safe, inclusive and respectful workplaces where employees were supported.
“All McDonald’s employees complete training in McDonald’s Respectful Workplace Policy and are expected to uphold our values at all times. We encourage our employees to speak up and report any breach of our policy and values,” a spokeswoman said.
“McDonald’s takes these allegations seriously and will continue to work with the franchisee and relevant authorities.”
A Victoria Police spokesperson confirmed they had received a report of an alleged sexual assault at the Traralgon fast-food restaurant. “Investigators have spoken to the parties involved and no offence was disclosed,” the spokesperson said.
Hudson has also made a complaint with WorkSafe. A WorkSafe spokeswoman said it was assessing matters raised in the complaint.
Cullinan said there had been five complaints documented to the union from employees of the store. He said McDonald’s needed to do better.
“We for many years have been demanding McDonald’s head office take responsibility of the way young workers are treated in their outlets,” he said.
The union is currently investigating legal action on behalf of its members. Cullinan said the union had been disgusted by the letter sent to Hudson and the other employees who had left the store.
“We see it as having a purpose and the purpose is to silence the workers and ensure there is minimal reputational damage while workers continue to be at risk,” said Cullinan.
If you or anyone you know needs support call Lifeline on 131 114, Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636, or the national sexual assault and domestic violence helpline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. For help in a crisis call triple zero.
The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.