Violating the code of conduct on romantic relationships at work is expensive in the United States. British Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s CEO who was fired in November 2019 for having relationships with a subordinate, will return to the company $ 105 million in cash and shares. The agreement, which has been approved by the board of directors of the fast food giant, resolves the lawsuit that McDonald’s had filed against Easterbrook for “his misconduct, lies and efforts to prevent the investigation of his actions.”
The British executive has also apologized “to the company and the McDonald’s community in general” for not defending the values of the chain and for failing to fulfill his responsibility as chief executive of the chain. Through the agreement, McDonald’s dismisses the legal action underway against the defenestrated Easterbrook.
The chain’s Board of Directors considered that Easterbrook “demonstrated bad judgment”, despite the fact that the relationship with the employee was “consensual”, and that his actions represented a violation of the internal code of conduct that governs employees . For this reason, he terminated his contract “without reason”, which allowed the executive to receive compensation of about 40 million dollars for unfair dismissal. In August 2020, however, the company opened another investigation after receiving information about a new romantic relationship that Easterbrook had hidden when he was fired.
“This agreement makes Steve Easterbrook responsible for his evident misconduct, including the way in which he took advantage of his position as executive director” of the firm, explained Enrique Hernández, president of the Board of Directors, referring to the abuse of power during the first investigation of what happened. “The resolution avoids a lengthy judicial process and allows us to move forward. With this agreement, the employees, the management and the direction of the company can continue to focus their attention on the growth of the business ”.
Easterbrook took over McDonald’s in March 2015 with the challenge of getting it out of decline, due to the decrease in customers in its stores. During the four years at the helm of the firm, he subjected the restaurants to an intense renovation and opted for the digitization of the menus to accelerate sales. The company’s stock market valuation doubled during his tenure.
The same year that Easterbrook was fired, with a hangover from the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, and in an attempt to wash his image, the hamburger giant expanded channels so that employees could report cases of misconduct in work place. It was as a result of a group of female employees suing management after being sexually harassed while working. The sudden dismissal of Easterbrook is not the only one that has shaken the business world in the United States for cases of romantic relationships between bosses and employees. But the very fine line between the attribution of responsibilities and the scrutiny of private life was again revealed.
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