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McDonald's closes its employee website

| Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

McDonald's Corp., under pressure to increase pay for its workers, is removing a resources website for employees after critics pummeled the burger maker for tips such as breaking food into small pieces to feel more full.

“A combination of factors has led us to re-evaluate,” the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company said on its website. “Between links to irrelevant or outdated information, along with outside groups taking elements out of context, this created unwarranted scrutiny and inappropriate commentary.”

The McResource website, which had information for McDonald's workers about health and wellness, as well as child and senior care, was developed by an independent third party. McDonald's said it will continue to provide the McResource service through an internal telephone helpline.

BerlinRosen, a New York-based public relations and consulting firm, criticized the McResource website in November, saying it told employees to take vacations when they couldn't afford it and to break food into smaller pieces to feel full on less.

About 90 percent of McDonald's 14,100 locations in America are owned and operated by franchisees.

This year media and labor groups criticized the website for content, including sample home budgets for employees that were based on holding two jobs and included no costs for heating, as well as suggestions on what to tip a personal fitness trainer or an au pair.

One critic, the “Low Pay Is Not Okay” campaign, was one of the groups behind recent strikes and rallies by fast-food workers and labor organizers that demanded better pay. While efforts vary by state, organizers are hoping to build public support to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25, or about $15,000 a year for full-time work.

And in an embarrassing moment for McDonald's, CNBC reported last week that the McResource website discouraged eating fast food as part of its tips for healthy living.

The McResource website “provided counsel on using information to make informed choices,” said Lisa McComb, a McDonald's spokeswoman. “All of the content wasn't relevant for our audiences, and we weren't in a position to customize it. And, portions of the content were taken out of context and misreported so these factors combined weren't helping our employees.”

McComb said the resources site was designed by Nurtur Health Inc., based in Farmington, Conn. Terry Miller, senior director of human resources at Nurtur, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Congressional Democrats, as well as worker advocacy groups, have urged the world's largest restaurant chain to raise pay for store workers. While McDonald's and other fast-food employees recently have gone on strike across the country to demand higher wages and better benefits, the protests have made little impact on an industry that employs millions of low-wage workers.

McDonald's has been struggling to attract American diners as rivals lure customers amid a choppy economic recovery. The chain's sales funk worsened in November as same-store sales dropped 0.8 percent.

The shares rose less than 1 percent to $96.84 at the close in New York, taking their gain for the year to 9.8 percent compared with 29 percent for the Standard & Poor's 500 Index.

Bloomberg News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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