McDonald’s: We Didn’t Go Through Fired CEO’s Emails Before Giving Him a Golden Parachute. Oops

by Evil HR Lady on August 11, 2020

Last year, McDonald’s fired their CEO and President, Steve Easterbrook for consensual sex with an employee. He got a nice golden parachute, estimated at $40 million.

But, now, another employee has come forth to accuse Easterbrook of another sexual relationship with an employee. Now, the count is up to three employees and one of those employees received stock as a result.

McDonald’s is suing Easterbrook for the return of his parachute, “accusing him of lying, concealing evidence and fraud.” But, the lawsuit also admits that McDonald’s didn’t look at Easterbrook’s emails as part of their investigation. Oopsie!

I can see how this happened. Easterbrook knew that if they investigated too much more than just the initial affair would come out. He agreed to leave rapidly, apologized publicly, and took his money and went home. He probably assumed that that would end the investigation and once the agreements were all signed, he’d be in the clear. Whew!

And there was a good chance that would happen. Signed severance packages are signed and done–generally. But, McDonald’s should never have ended their investigation immediately after a confession.

You always check emails. You always do a thorough investigation. Any HR person with five minutes of experience will tell you that it’s unlikely that sexual misconduct cases are rarely limited to one employee. Even in this case, where Easterbrook’s unnamed affair partner, never alleged any sort of coercion or harassment, they should have investigated. When you’re offering a severance package, which comes with legal releases and the like, you want a thorough investigation.

I have no idea how this lawsuit will pan out, but I do know that investigate, investigate, investigate is the first step. Always conduct an investigation when there are allegations. Never assume that the number of victims was one.

And yes, I understand that the original affair was, by all reports, consensual. But, no CEO can have a sexual relationship with an employee without there being a power imbalance. Something that the McDonald’s Board agreed with when Easterbrook left. Make sure your policies prohibit relationships between people in reporting lines.

And always, always, read the emails.

Photo by Lisa Fotios

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