McDonald’s wants to recover the tens of millions of dollars in severance pay paid to his former boss fired at the end of 2019 for exchanging naughty messages with an employee, accusing her of having lied to the board of directors at the time while hiding other links.
The American fast-food giant, a company that readily promotes its family values, has decided to sue Steve Easterbrook. He had forced him in November 2019 to leave the company, considering that he had committed an error in judgment by initiating a story that was certainly “agreed”, but contrary to the internal regulations.
But the board received anonymous information in July about the existence of another relationship and reopened an internal investigation.
They then learned that Mr. Easterbrook, managing director since 2015, had lied to them by claiming that he had only had an affair with one person within the company, and that she was limited to the exchange of messages and videos.
The company claims he actually had sex with three other staff in the year before his dismissal and awarded actions worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to one of those people, details Monday a document sent to the American financial markets authority.
He would then have sought to destroy evidence of these links, explicit photographs sent from his professional email address to his personal account. But those emails remained on the company’s servers.
– Dismissal for misconduct –
The board says it would not have paid compensation to Mr Easterbrook if he had been dismissed “for misconduct” in November 2019 and is therefore seeking to recover them, the document adds.
According to the firm Equilar, the former chief executive was awarded the equivalent of just over $ 40 million.
This is not the first time that a boss has been fired for an office affair, with large American companies generally banning relationships between a boss and his subordinates in their “codes of conduct”.
But the companies generally manage not to give details on the reasons for these departures and the owners concerned leave without making waves.
The subject has become more sensitive since the #MeToo movement against harassment and sexual assault. And the recent anti-racist movement “Black Live Matters” has made large corporations pay even more attention to their ethical responsibility.
McDonald’s is also accused by an international coalition of unions, which in May seized the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), of tolerating “systematic sexual harassment” in its restaurants around the world between vulgar comments, touching and assaults.
The group said Monday that it had ensured that Mr. Easterbrook could not immediately exercise his stock options or sell shares granted as part of his compensation.
In a letter sent to employees when he was dismissed, the former boss admitted having made “a mistake”.
He was immediately replaced by Chris Kempczinski, until then number 2 in the group.
In a message Monday, the latter said that McDonald’s “does not tolerate any behavior on the part of its employees that does not reflect the values” of the company.
“More than ever, it is time to act for what we say we represent and to embody a positive force for change,” he adds.
Mr. Kempczinski says in particular that he wants to maintain an environment in which the company’s employees can report, without fear, behaviors that they consider contrary to the values of the group.