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McDonald's fires CEO for "consensual relationship" with employee

McDonald CEO fired for employee relationship

McDonald's said Sunday that it had fired CEO Steve Easterbrook due to what the company described as a "recent consensual relationship with an employee" that violated company policy. Chris Kempczinski, president of McDonald's USA, will take over as CEO, according to the company's press release Sunday night. The Wall Street Journal first published the news.

In an email to McDonald's employees, Easterbrook called the relationship a "mistake." 

"Given the values of the company, I agree with the Board that it is time for me to move on," Easterbrook said. "Please join me in congratulating Chris on his promotion. I know you will support him as you have supported me — he's lucky to have a team of your caliber."

Earlier this year, the fast food company had to deal publicly with allegations of sexual harassment.

Stephen Easterbrook
McDonald's CEO Stephen Easterbrook unveils the company's new corporate headquarters during a grand opening ceremony on June 4, 2018, in Chicago, Illinois. Getty

McDonald's also confirmed that the company's top human resources executive, Chief People Officer David Fairhurst, has left the company. The company declined to say if Fairhurst's exit is linked to Easterbrook's firing. 

Labor activists Fight for 15 and a union said in May that 25 McDonald's employees came forward alleging that they were sexually harassed on the job. The accusations included groping, indecent exposure, propositions for sex and lewd comments by supervisors against workers as young as 16 years old, according to the labor groups.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund also backed the complaints, which included 20 claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and three filed lawsuits alleging civil rights violations.

Easterbrook responded in a letter saying the the company had started working with RAINN, a group devoted to curbing sexual violence, to improve conditions for employees and upgrade McDonald's harassment policies.

In June, eight U.S. senators called on McDonald's to require its franchisees do more to protect workers from harassment. In a letter, the lawmakers wrote "continued reports of workplace misconduct are unacceptable."

Easterbrook took over as CEO in March 2015, promising to transform the chain into a "modern and progressive" company with a greater emphasis on customer service.

One month after taking over, Easterbrook said McDonald's would be raising the minimum wage and increasing vacation time for employees. He told "CBS This Morning" that move would motivate teams and create better customer service.

Under Easterbrook's time at the helm, McDonald's financial performance improved, especially with sales soaring after the company introduced all-day breakfast in 2015.

The Associated Press and Kate Gibson contributed to this report.

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