Last year, McDonald’s fired CEO Steve Easterbrook for violating company policy against sexting with an employee, furnishing him with tens of millions in exit compensation, as is custom these days. But a new report from the New York Times reveals that McDonald’s is suing Easterbrook for his involvement in not one, but three sexual relationships with McDonald’s subordinates, in addition to the fact that he gave one of them a batch of shares worth thousands of dollars.
Easterbrook’s behavior first came to light in October 2019, when an employee told the company that she was having an inappropriate relationship with the CEO. From the Times:
The employee told the company that she was worried that she would end up getting punished for the monthlong consensual relationship, which consisted of sexually explicit text messages, photographs and at least one FaceTime call with him, but was not physical.
After verifying the employees’ claims, the McDonald’s board decided not to fire Easterbrook for cause, and instead let him go with “with as little disruption as possible,” the company wrote in the lawsuit. Easterbrook claimed this relationship was “the only one of an intimate nature” that he’d had with an employee, saying also that he’d never had a physical sexual relationship with someone who worked for him.
But last month, McDonald’s brass became aware that another employee had been talking about her own sexual relationship with Easterbrook during his time as an executive. This time, the company did a more thorough accounting, and what they turned up was extensive:
In its lawsuit, McDonald’s said it ultimately found “dozens of nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit photographs and videos of various women, including photographs of these company employees, that Easterbrook had sent as attachments to messages from his company email account to his personal email account.”
These findings amount to “undisputable evidence” that Easterbrook violated the company’s ban on having sexual relationships with subordinates, and that he had lied to investigators. Additionally, Easterbrook allegedly awarded one of the employees hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of shares, the company said in its lawsuit. A source told the Times that the stock was in the form of a “special retention grant,” which don’t need to be approved by the company’s board.
McDonald’s is no stranger to sexual harassment issues. In the U.S., more than 50 workers have filed sexual harassment charges against the company. In 2018, workers in cities around the country walked off their jobs to protest McDonald’s failure to take action.