#MeToo: McDonald’s CEO ousted over affair
McDonald’s fired its chief executive, Steve Easterbrook, this week after the board learned he had been having a relationship with an employee, said David Yaffe-Bellany in The New York Times. Though the relationship was consensual, “the #MeToo era has brought new scrutiny to a wide range of workplace misconduct,” and the board said Easterbrook, who is divorced, had violated company policy. The move could have been motivated by “pressure facing McDonald’s” over its handling of sexual harassment cases at its franchises, which are the subjects of 23 complaints filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. But “changing attitudes about romance in the workplace” have also led more companies to enact strict “nonfraternization” rules for executives.
“Easterbrook had to go,” said the Chicago Tribune in an editorial. It doesn’t matter that the relationship was consensual. As CEO, Easterbrook was the boss to every McDonald’s employee. “The reason nonfraternization policies exist” is because any workplace romance between a supervisor and a subordinate is “susceptible to abuse.” It’s tough enough for someone to have a relationship “with the person responsible for his or her paycheck.” It also raises the question of fairness toward other employees. McDonald’s did the right thing in immediately replacing Easterbrook with another senior executive, Chris Kempczinski. Bosses should “have the power to enforce their organizations’ priorities,” not to violate them. ■