The SDA union’s ‘No One Deserves A Serve’ campaign.
The SDA union’s ‘No One Deserves A Serve’ campaign.

Fast-food workers’ horror stories

"We didn't have frozen raspberry, so he threatened to slit my throat."

Fast-food workers have shared shocking accounts of verbal abuse, death threats, sexual harassment and even assault, with nearly nine in 10 reporting being on the receiving end of aggressive behaviour.

The retail union released the first-hand accounts provided in a recent survey of workers as it kicked off an advertising blitz ahead of the busy Christmas period calling on customers to treat fast-food workers with respect.

Of the 1000 respondents, 71 per cent were women and 41 per cent under the age of 18.

Just under one third said incidents of customer abuse or violence involved sexual behaviour, and 28 per cent reported physical abuse such as punching, hitting and pushing, or threats of physical abuse including death threats and threats with a weapon.

Workers reported receiving threats of rape, or having items such as cigarettes and hot coffee thrown at them. Forty-four per cent said the abuse had impacted on their mental and physical health.

"When we talk about the abuse of fast food workers, we're actually talking about the abuse of teenage girls," SDA national secretary Gerard Dwyer said in a statement.

"The behaviour they have reported is absolutely unacceptable and it's time for it to stop. This behaviour would never be tolerated in schools, why is it okay for young Australian workers to be abused at work?"

Mr Dwyer said abusive and violent customer behaviour was a "serious workplace health and safety issue that impacts the mental and physical health of fast food workers".

"It's clear that on a daily basis, fast food workers are being subjected to constant verbal abuse, threats of violence and in some cases, actual physical assault," he said. "Our message to the public is that this behaviour has got to stop. Copping abuse is not part of the job. No one deserves a serve."

The latest advertising blitz continues with the union's "No One Deserves a Serve" campaign. Earlier this year the SDA condemned the so-called "plastic bag rage" that resulted in one Woolworths worker being physically assaulted.

Mr Dwyer said launching the latest round of ads across online, TV, radio, buses and billboards was focused on changing public behaviour toward fast food and retail workers. "Abusive behaviour toward fast food workers is never acceptable," he said.

"We acknowledge that Christmas can be a busy and stressful time for many people, but that does not excuse rude, offensive and disrespectful behaviour toward fast food and retail staff."

He said the union was calling on employers to act urgently to take a zero-tolerance approach and support workers. "Employers must step up and do more to protect workers and mitigate risks in their workplaces," he said.

A Domino's spokesman said, "The safety of our team members is our highest priority and we do not tolerate the behaviour of those who put this safety at risk."

McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Subway and Hungry Jack's have been contacted for comment.



• "We didn't have frozen raspberry … so he threatened to slit my throat."

• "A customer threatened to kill my family and myself if I didn't remake his cheeseburger because the first one was apparently too cold."

• "He threatened to break my kneecaps with a bat."

• "A customer threatened to kill me and tried to jump through the Drive Thru window."

• "A customer threw a cigarette butt at me and then drove off."

• "I've been threatened with actual physical knives."

• "I have been threatened to be raped. I have had customers physically throw items at me including hot coffee."

• "I've had things thrown at me. Been told they are going to kill me and wait for me after work."

• "I have been physically and sexually threatened. I have been verbally abused. I have had my life, health, safety threatened. I have been spat on."

• "One guy tried to fight one of our 16-year-old workers and then threw his food at the window and then called the store making bomb threats."

• "Threats to jump the counter and smash my face in. A customer poured a bottle of Coke over my head. Constant verbal abuse."

• "I have had customers coming in and say things like, 'Where the f*** is my pizza you little c*** I'm gonna f*** this place up if I don't get my f***ing pizza.'"

• "He threw four large soft drinks at me and demanded his money back so I was soaking wet, he also told me to go die."

• "A male customer told me to 'go get f***ed you stupid f***ing sl**'."

• "I am constantly yelled at, sworn at and treated inhumanely by customers at my workplace. I've been called names ranging from 'incompetent piece of s***' to 'dumb c***' and 'fat sl**'."

• "I've also had someone attempt to pull me out the Drive Thru window."

• "I've been called a bitch, been grabbed at, been sworn at and been told they'll come find me. Some tell me I'm a worthless drop out. I'm literally still in school."


• "A guy was rubbing himself down there while I was serving him."

• "Old men winking and saying rude sexual comments."

• "A customer said, 'Oh, you're the area manager? I'd let you manage my area'."

• "Customers will speak to the girls inappropriately, asking for their numbers when they're clearly underage."

• "On at least three occasions, a trucker I see on a regular basis, has told me he wants me in response to me asking him if he wanted anything else with his meal."

• "Constantly hitting on me to get me to go out with them and telling me how age doesn't matter."

• "Passing the cash change through the window he took my hand and was rubbing up and down my hand saying how nice I felt under his fingertips. Also, have had an old man ask to take me home with his fries."

• "Inappropriate comments and wouldn't take no for an answer … followed me outside when I was on break and wouldn't leave me alone. Tried kissing me."

• "Making comments like, 'I love it when a girl gives it a good twist' and inappropriate nicknames such as babe, darling, and sweetie, particularly from older, middle aged men. For context, I experienced this as a 16-17-year-old."


Source: SDA December survey of 1000 fast-food workers

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