FILE - In this Wednesday, July 26, 2017, file photo, McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook is interviewed at the New York Stock Exchange. McDonald's said Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, that Easterbrook has stepped down after violating company policy by engaging in a consensual relationship with an employee. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File) Photo: AP
business

McDonald's CEO ousted after consensual relationship with employee

40 Comments
By CATHY BUSSEWITZ and DEE-ANN DURBIN

McDonald's chief executive officer has been pushed out of the company after violating company policy by engaging in a consensual relationship with an employee, the corporation said Sunday.

The fast food giant said former president and CEO Steve Easterbrook demonstrated poor judgment, and that McDonald's forbids managers from having romantic relationships with direct or indirect subordinates.

In an email to employees, Easterbrook acknowledged he had a relationship with an employee and said it was a mistake.

"Given the values of the company, I agree with the board that it is time for me to move on," Easterbrook said in the email.

McDonald's board of directors voted on Easterbrook's departure Friday after conducting a thorough review. Details of Easterbrook's separation package will be released Monday in a federal filing, according to a company spokesman. He will also be leaving the company's board. Easterbrook was CEO since 2015.

McDonald's would not provide details about the employee with whom Easterbrook was involved, and an attorney for Easterbrook declined to answer questions.

The board of directors named Chris Kempczinski, who recently served as president of McDonald's USA, as its new president and CEO.

Two weeks ago, McDonald's reported a 2% drop in net income for the third quarter as it spent heavily on store remodeling and expanded delivery service. The company's share price has dropped 7.5% since, though it's still up 9.2% for the year. The burger chain also has been plagued by declining restaurant traffic.

The leadership transition is unrelated to the company's operational or financial performance, the company said in a news release.

McDonald's decision to act may be a sign of progress on workplace issues that have come to light in the #MeToo era, said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.

"Other companies don't always act on that kind of information or fire their CEO for that, and so it seems like they trying to enforce a pretty strict policy in this situation," Tobias said.

Among other challenges at its restaurants, McDonald's has faced workplace harassment charges. In May, McDonald's said it was enhancing training and offering a new hotline for workers after a labor group filed dozens of sexual harassment charges against the company.

Fight for $15, the group which filed the charges, said McDonald's response to its sexual harassment complaints has been inadequate, and "the company needs to be completely transparent about Easterbrook's firing and any other executive departures related to these issues."

Kempczinski joined McDonald's in 2015. He was responsible for approximately 14,000 McDonald's restaurants in the U.S. He was instrumental in the development of McDonald's strategic plan and oversaw the most comprehensive transformation of the U.S. business in McDonald's history, said Enrique Hernandez, chairman of McDonald's board, in a statement.

Kempczinski described Easterbrook as a mentor.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

40 Comments
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Romantic relationships with coworkers, even when their totally consensual, are suicide in the post metoo era.

6 ( +13 / -7 )

violating company policy by engaging in a consensual relationship with an employee

Insane.

It should never be up to a company to dictate what employees do in their free time, unless it is illegal or obviously brings the company into disrepute. This does not.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

Romantic relationships with coworkers, even when their totally consensual, are suicide in the post metoo era.

No they’re not. That’s an entirely illogical and silly conclusion. There are millions and millions of coworkers in relationships, just as there always has been and will be.

Its a truth however that those dudes who know they are creepy and don’t know how to properly interact with women have been panicked in the post me too era, as they are rightfully worried that they’re going to be forced to take responsibility for their actions in the future. Guys who know how to deal with girls will be act as properly as they always have, and will have no problems beyond the Norma relationship ones they’ve always had.

See, for the creeps, the dating world got flipped upside down. For normal guys nothing changed, the world still works the way it always did.

-10 ( +4 / -14 )

It should never be up to a company to dictate what employees do in their free time, unless it is illegal or obviously brings the company into disrepute. 

At the executive level, companies pay the exec to give up the freedom to sleep with employees, as such relationships can create leverage against the executive. It’s in the best interests of the company, the executive enters into the agreement willingly, and are compensated for the position they are in.

And look at this guy’s comments. He clearly understands it was his own mistake that put him in this situation.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

He forgot the rule of "Don't mess with the help."

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I am wondering if the relationship with the subordinate has anything to do with that an article from a year ago described him as a family man living with his wife and three children but Wiki now describes him as divorced with three children.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

the world still works the way it always did.

Except that guys are being punished now for consensual relationships.

The metoo noose is tightening around everybody's neck, not just "creeps."

Welcome to the new reality where workplace romance is a treacherous minefield.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Never dip your pen in the company's ink well.

There are many good reasons for these rules.

Perhaps it is an American work-culture thing because everyone above you has control over your raises, advancement, and can ensure you get put on bad projects.

8 of 10 companies where I've worked had policies against romantic relationships with coworkers.

Adults don't always behave like adults when relationships fail.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

8 of 10 companies where I've worked had policies against romantic relationships with coworkers.

Just wrong. The companies are just more scared of some lawsuit and so abuse their power over employees' private lives.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Romantic relationships will occur between workers, that's just human nature. I'm sure all of us know many couples who met at work and whose relationships have been genuine and permanent, not exploitative.

Only caveat on that is, is one of the people involved in a position where they can influence the career of the other, for good or bad? If that's the case, and it makes things difficult at work, probably best for one of the couple to move on to another workplace.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Employees shouldn’t have to work at companies where the bosses get to sleep with employees.

a guy making 16 million dollars a year and who is CEO should he able to meet someone he doesn’t work with and not have to misuse power.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Welcome to the new reality where workplace romance is a treacherous minefield.

What is it, specifically, that men and women have to do differently nowadays, in order not to be accused of sexual harassment at work?

Vague explanations like "we can't have a laugh any more" obviously don't suffice.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Except that guys are being punished now for consensual relationships.

This guy is getting pushed for contractual problems. Has nothing to do with #metoo.

I really do feel for the inept guys who don’t know how to properly interact with women who, who now are freaked out about metoo. It must suck to know you’re probably lacking the social intelligence to be able to ever have sex with a willing woman now that they have to worry about being called out if they do it to her unwillingly.

If I knew I was never going to be able to have sex again I’d be pretty angry too.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Except that guys are being punished now for consensual relationships....

too true. I think Bill Gates deserves retroactive punishment. He'd never be allowed to marry his "life partner" and former company subordinate Melinda Gates under today's new Puritanism regulations and still keep his job.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Yep this CEO guy thought he was smooth too. just using his social intelligence to decide she liked him just for him, nothing to do about his title or money.

Yet someone thought it was inappropriate (maybe her when she didn’t get something she wanted, maybe a jealous coworker).

now his 16 million dollar a year job is gone, and he won’t get getting another one thanks to #metoo

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

It should never be up to a company to dictate what employees do in their free time, unless it is illegal or obviously brings the company into disrepute. This does not.

McDonald's has a clear policy, one that this CEO presumably knew about but violated anyway.

Yes, with the vast majority of things in life, what employees do in their free time is their own business.

But with regard to high-level execs having relationships with underlings, there is far too much risk of potential damage to the company if the relationship goes sour (as relationships often do in this era of serial monogamy).

So for a company to have rules against execs having such relationships is totally fair.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Easterbrook went out fairly meekly, no?

No company should be able to restrict the rights of its workers to form relationships.

I would propose that the US constitution might be a remedy to protect freedom of association.

However,McDonalds would counter Easterbrook signed that away as he penned the McDonald’s contract.

What would a court say?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yep this CEO guy thought he was smooth too. just using his social intelligence to decide she liked him just for him, nothing to do about his title or money.

How do you know what he thought? Did he do an interview you’ve read?

Yet someone thought it was inappropriate

Yeah, the company to whom he’d agreed that he wouldn’t participate in such relationships. And they fired him.

now his 16 million dollar a year job is gone, and he won’t get getting another one thanks to #metoo

No, thanks to corporate policy that has been around way longer than metoo.

I feel for the guys whom are getting hysterical about metoo. They see boogey(wo)men in every shadow. Talk about stress!

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

What is it, specifically, that men and women have to do differently nowadays,

I guess you're half right, women can still do as they please without regard for anything. Men on the other hand have to be extremely careful before saying anything that could remotely be misinterpreted by any women within earshot lest he immediately lose his job and all prospects of a future career.

A guy can still risk his future and ask his coworker out, but if his mind reading is wrong and she's not interested, he's toast. Moreover, even if she says yes, he has to worry about the breakup, because she can reinterpret all their sexual encounters after the fact and claim that he crossed a line somewhere. Again, he's toast.

Most men have caught on to the new rules and are biting their lip whenever a women enters the room. It'll take a few years for women to notice that men have started to back off at work.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Most men have caught on to the new rules and are biting their lip whenever a women enters the room. It'll take a few years for women to notice that men have started to back off at work.

Women: Men are all pigs! They just want to sleep with us! #metoo

Men: OK, let's ignore our female co-workers then.

Women: Why doesn't anyone notice me anymore!

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Probably he even wore and signed those company directives. Likely thought they didn’t apply to him.

how do I know what he thought? Cause his actions show me what he thought by what he did.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Men on the other hand have to be extremely careful before saying anything that could remotely be misinterpreted by any women within earshot lest he immediately lose his job and all prospects of a future career.

No, that’s not true. Maybe in some edge case extends but that’s not the norm.

Companies have the same polices as they did. If you say racist, sexist or bigoted or sexually harassing things, companies will let you go. It’s always been like that.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

No it’s likely the company has this policy due to #metoo. Because things like this used to be fine, especially when executives do it.

No, thanks to corporate policy that has been around way longer than metoo. 

I feel for the guys whom are getting hysterical about metoo. They see boogey(wo)men in every shadow. Talk about stress!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

It must suck to know you’re probably lacking the social intelligence to be able to ever have sex with a willing woman

You seem to think it's amusing that some men are resigned to a life of loneliness because they fear to tread into the metoo minefield but just remember that mathematically, for every lonely guy that you laugh at there's a corresponding lonely women wondering why she can't find a partner.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

No it’s likely the company has this policy due to #metoo.

Yeah, McDonalds didn’t have a company policy on sleeping with subordinates until #metoo. Facepalm.

Its amazing how often people will say things here that clearly expose their ignorance on how the world works, yet the the tone of their post is that they know what they are talking about.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

You seem to think it's amusing that some men are resigned to a life of loneliness because they fear to tread into the metoo minefield

No, I think it’s sad. Poor guys, that would be a torturous life. It’s not amusing, it’s pitiable.

remember that mathematically, for every lonely guy that you laugh at there's a corresponding lonely women wondering why she can't find a partner.

I don’t know if your math is particularly accurate, but anyone with a heart feels bad for those women too.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

but anyone with a heart feels bad for those women too.

Casualties of metoo, just like all the others.

Marriage rate plummets further and the number of lonely singles swell.

Geez, society doesn't seem better off in this metoo minefield does it.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Casualties of metoo, just like all the others.

What? There were lonely women wondering why they couldn't find men before metoo.

You guys are seeing #metoo in every shadow it seems. It must be stressful for you.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Geez, society doesn't seem better off in this metoo minefield does it.

Well, the guys worried about getting called out for doing things they shouldn't definitely don't think so.

Women who have more of a voice in not getting abused and having to deal with creepy dudes all the time would think society has got better.

And for those who weren't creeps before #metoo started, nothing really changed for better or worse, other than that the women around us have an easier life now, which is good.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

No it’s likely the company has this policy due to #metoo. Because things like this used to be fine, especially when executives do it.

A very quick bit of internet research shows that this is nonsense. I found in seconds that this policy existed for at least a decade prior to #metoo.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Guys everywhere are reassessing their game, most have totally forsworn workplace relationships altogether, some have a let the women make the first move policy.

I know "guys", and I can honestly say without doubt that not a single one is doing this to my knowledge.

Perhaps your social and work circle is quite different, but I very much doubt it. Massively exaggerating things you've read elsewhere is more your game.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I am wondering if the relationship with the subordinate has anything to do with that an article from a year ago described him as a family man living with his wife and three children but Wiki now describes him as divorced with three children.

Now that's pretty sad

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A very quick bit of internet research shows that this is nonsense. I found in seconds that this policy existed for at least a decade prior to #metoo.

You're more patient than I. I thought the claim that McDs didn't have a police on this until the #metoo movement was such a ridiculously stupid statement, that it didn't even warrant fact checking. I would have bet money on its existence, and I would have won.

These anti-#metooers really are panicking.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

When did the MeToo movement stop being a way to give victims of sexual harassment and attack the courage to speak out publicly about the assault on their person, and to highlight how common sexual assault is?

It is being discussed here by some as though it is an invention by women in order to inconvenience those men who only seem able to talk to women by remarking on their physical appearance.

Sexual harassment and assault needs to stop. Clearly some posters here think there is no need to find ways to prevent it. For shame.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Details of Easterbrook's separation package will be released Monday

Do we really need to hear about that?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Slave wages and such...and he is removed for this? Well, now we know how to get rid of the rest of the board, right, Fight For 15?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

One should never fish off the company pier, or better said, never get your honey, where you get your money!!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

wonder why this article doesn't mention this: "McDonald's pays ousted chief $675,000 in severance deal" which is according to the Guardian.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

.....makes for interesting reading actually.... all kinds of stuff not mentioned above: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/nov/04/mcdonalds-pays-ousted-chief-675000-in-severance-deal

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Didn't see anything about THIS relationship that was bad except that it violated McDs policy.

There's a huge world out there full of women/men to date. The number inside any company is tiny. It was never an issue when I was single to find dates outside work. But I only worked like a dog with the Japanese for a year. That year I can't remember having any long term relationships. Many of my coworkers had over 2 hr commutes, each way. Blowing 4 hrs daily for commuting?

In America, few people work the hours that Japanese salarymen work. Since 1999, I've generally worked just 42-45 hrs a week (or much less since 2007), which leaves plenty of time for family/dating/relationships/hobbies. Plus, my commute to work was 30 minutes or less.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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