McDonald's said Sunday that its board of directors had pushed out CEO Steve Easterbrook after violating a company policy against managers having romantic relationships with subordinates. Easterbrook, chief executive since 2015, acknowledged the consensual relationship with an employee in an email to McDonald's workers obtained by The Associated Press. "Given the values of the company, I agree with the board that it is time for me to move on," he wrote. McDonald's named Easterbrook protégé Chris Kempczinski, recently president of McDonald's USA, as its new CEO and president.
McDonald's said it forbids managers from having romantic relationships with direct or indirect subordinate and Easterbrook showed poor judgment. It said McDonald's recent quarterly financial report played no part in the decision, nor did the company's operational or financial performance generally.
In May, facing dozens of sexual harassment charges filed by labor groups, McDonald's said it would enhance training and set up a new hotline for employees. Easterbrook's ouster may be another sign that the company — and corporations more generally — are changing in the #MeToo era, University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias tells AP. "Other companies don't always act on that kind of information or fire their CEO for that, and so it seems like they trying to enforce a pretty strict policy in this situation."