The Guardian • Laura Bates
New research has suggested that female employees at fast food restaurants operated by Andrew Puzder, Donald Trump’s nomination for labor secretary, face far higher levels of workplace sexual harassment than the industry average. According to the research conducted by Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United, around 66% of female workers reported sexual harassment at brands owned by CKE restaurants, run by Puzder, compared with the average of 40% across the fast food industry.
The man at the top of this particular food chain has repeatedly made sexist statements and expressed his backing for the infamous adverts that have objectified and sexualised women’s bodies to sell hamburgers for CKE restaurants chains including Carl’s Jr. “We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don’t sell burgers,” Puzder said, in a 2009 press release. Last year he proudly endorsed the adverts, and stated: “I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis … I used to hear that brands take on the personality of the CEO. And I rarely thought that was true, but I think this one, in this case, it kind of did take on my personality.”
Fifty six per cent of the 564 female CKE restaurant employees surveyed reported sexual harassment from customers, including sexual remarks, being asked to have intercourse, being asked to expose their breasts and being followed outside the store. Significantly, some reported that perpetrators directly referenced the adverts. “Customers have asked why I don’t dress like the women in the commercials,” one Tennessee-based Hardee’s employee told researchers. (Elizabeth Johnson, a spokesperson for Trump’s transition team, called the report “fake news” that was “paid for by unions and special interests opposed to Andy Puzder’s nomination.”)
When the person at the top of a company normalises objectification, it makes it much more socially acceptable for others to treat women in a similar way. This is one of the clearest illustrations yet of the “trickle-down” effect we see when people who themselves exhibit prejudiced views are put in positions of great power. It is a phenomenon we must prepare ourselves to see a great deal more of after Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.