In an extremely rare move for a major company, McDonald’s has filed a lawsuit against ousted C.E.O, Steve Easterbrook, after it came to light that he concealed evidence while under investigation for sexual misconduct.
Last year a McDonald’s employee revealed that she was consensually sexting with Easterbrook in a month long non-physical relationship that consisted of sexually explicit text messages, photographs, and a FaceTime call. Fearing repercussions, the employee decided to divulge to the company about her relationship with the then C.E.O.
The company swiftly contracted outside lawyers to conduct an investigation on Easterbrook. It was during this investigation that Easterbrook confirmed the employee’s account but also assured that there was no further misconduct besides what the employee had already revealed. The investigation concluded with no additional evidence of sexual misconduct found.
Therefore, following the investigation the board of directors saw to it that Easterbrook was fired and yet, he was also given a generous multi million compensation package. Therefore, many saw this as just one more story of a company quietly dismissing a disgraced C.E.O in order to keep the dirty details away from the public.
However, that was not the conclusion many predicted. Instead, just last month another employee came forward with further allegation against Easterbrook. These allegations state that Easterbrook did in fact have sexual relations with another subordinate. Soon after the company opened a second investigation into these new allegation. In a major oversight, the second investigation found that despite going through Easterbrook’s company issued iPhone 10 and iCloud account, what was never checked was his electronic communication that was stored on McDonald’s computer servers.
In the computer servers the investigation found emails by Easterbrook that had “dozens of nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit photographs and videos of various women, including photographs of these company employees, that Easterbrook has sent as attachments to messages from his company email to his personal email account.” With this newly found evidence it was further discovered that Easterbrook had sexual relationships with three other employees and even gave hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of shares to one of the employees he was involved with.
McDonald’s has thus decided to file a lawsuit against Easterbrook, accusing him of lying, fraud, and of deleting evidence from his phone during the initial investigation.
Many wonder what would motivate a major company to go after a former C.E.O so fiercely, as never before has such a major company gone after a former high executive so publicly. Certainly, one major motivation is to recoup what has estimated to be $40 million in stock and other compensation McDonalds allowed Easterbrook to keep. McDonald’s originally allowed Easterbrook to keep that generous amount due to the belief that the first investigation had not has not found any further violations. However, now that it was revealed that Easterbrook lied, McDonalds is pointing at an important clause in Easterbrook’s severance agreement that states: “If, in the future, McDonald’s determined that an employee was dishonest and actually deserved to be fired for cause, the company had the right to recoup the severance payouts.”
The second motivation is related to the current environment that the MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements have helped create. Simply put companies have felt more and more motivated to become transparent with the public. Companies more than ever want to be thought of as good corporate citizens that keep in mind the well-being of their employees and of society in large.
Chris Kempczinski, the current C.E.O. of McDonald’s has called for McDonald’s corporation to stick closer to the ideals of integrity, inclusion and of supporting local communities. In a memo Kempczinski states that “McDonald’s does not tolerate behavior from any employee that does not reflect our values” and that “as we recommit to our values, now, more than ever, is the time to lean in to what we stand for and act as a positive force for change.”
Valiant Law is Southern California’s Premier Law Firm for Employment Law. Our dedicated and highly experienced attorneys can help you with a variety of legal needs. What sets us apart is not only our experience and our dedication, but also our passion for seeing our clients’ legal needs sufficiently met. Contact us today for a free consultation.