Burger King returns to the Super Bowl this year after an eleven-year absence, perhaps emboldened by its rival McDonald's choice to forego advertising during the Super Bowl to instead focus on the Winter Olympics. Although the theme of Burger King's single 60-second slot has not been released, its NFL advertising during the season featured "The King" running around on the field with NFL players, courtesy of spliced highlight footage from actual football games.
Perhaps The King should do more running around to monitor Burger King's restaurant locations, as the franchise has become known in recent years for problems protecting its female workers, especially its teen employees, from sexual harassment and health and safety hazards.
In December 2004, a Missouri Burger King franchise settled for $400,000 a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of seven female employees, six of whom were high school students. The EEOC's lawsuit in that case alleged that when the restaurant manager subjected the female employees to repeated groping, vulgar sexual comments, and demands for sex, no one took action when the young women complained.
In April 2005, a much larger lawsuit against Carrols Corporation, the owner of 330 Burger King restaurants in 13 states, was thrown out by a judge who ruled that the number of harassment complaints, compared to the number of female employees, was not statistically large enough to support the EEOC's pattern and practice case (similar to a class-action case). However, the same judge also ruled that 333 of the 511 women who submitted their complaints of harassment to the court had potentially viable harassment claims.
A year ago, a former Burger King worker who was severely burned when a grease machine exploded agreed to a $4 million settlement of her claim. Brittany Krollman was a teenager working the hamburger line at a Burger King in western New York in June 1997 when a defective grease filter machine exploded and sprayed her with 350-degree cooking oil, forcing her to undergo five surgical procedures and leaving her with permanent scars.
When Burger King says, "Have it your way," it certainly isn't referring to its workers. When the King runs down the field, it shouldn’t be evoking images of managers chasing their employees around the restaurant. If Burger King were to spend $5 million or more on training its managers and better protecting its workers, the King might actually score with its employees, and not just when its managers try to hit on the chain's most vulnerable workers.