McDonald’s CEO Illegal Relationship ‘Not Surprising’

This weekend we learned that Steve Easterbrook, now the former CEO of multinational fast-food giant McDonald’s, was fired over an ongoing relationship with a work colleague.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

News reports indicate the global chief executive of McDonald’s was fired after admitting he breached company rules by dating a work colleague. He told staff in an email that the relationship was consensual but admitted that it did go against company rules.

Like many companies in the US, McDonald’s does not allow any form of romantic relationship between work colleagues, direct or indirect.

Steve Easterbrook, who has headed up the multinational since 2015, and worked with the firm since 1993, recently divorced his ex-wife and has three children. Sky reports his comments: “Given the values of the company, I agree with the board that it is time for me to move on.”

He has since also stepped down as McDonald’s president and member of the board, and is being replaced as CEO by Chris Kempczinski, the current president of McDonald’s USA, starting immediately.

On the news, Rebecca Thornley-Gibson, partner at city law firm DMH Stallard, had this to say: “Most individuals spend more time at work with colleagues than with friends and family and therefore it’s not surprising that many people find themselves in a personal relationship of some kind with a colleague.  Most of the time this won’t create issues and employers won’t interfere with the relationship. However, where there is a relationship that involves one of the individuals holding the balance of power in the workplace relationship, e.g. manager/supervisor/board member, then conflict issues are more likely to arise.

“If one of the parties in the relationship is responsible for the other’s appraisals, pay reviews, promotion opportunities and even work allocation, then there is danger of favouritism and from team members, perceived bias.  There may also be issues where the more junior employee feels as though they cannot say no to amorous advances and this creates a real risk of later sexual harassment claims against the manager and employer.

“Stopping relationships is not likely to be practical for employers but putting in place steps to minimise any fallout from the relationship should be considered. This will involve having in place, and communicating workplace policies on conduct at work, equality and diversity policies with a clear zero tolerance towards sexual harassment and also requiring employees to declare relationships which are likely to result in a potential conflict.”

Leave A Reply