McDonald’s Internal Investigation Extends Beyond Ousted CEO

By Dee-Ann Durbin | August 27, 2020

An internal investigation by McDonald’s of potential misconduct has extended beyond its former CEO who was forced out late last year.

McDonald’s board of directors has hired an outside law firm as part of a probe into its human resources department to determine if Steve Easterbrook, who exited abruptly in November, covered up misconduct for others in that department.

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

The company didn’t share details about the allegations. On Wednesday, however, The Wall Street Journal reported that McDonald’s conducted an internal investigation in 2018 after employees complained about inappropriate physical contact between the company’s top HR executive, David Fairhurst, and a subordinate at a holiday party.

After Easterbrook was became McDonald’s CEO in 2015 he named Fairhurst, a friend, to lead the human resource department.

Fairhurst departed around the same time as Easterbrook, but the Chicago company said his departure was unrelated. It now says he was fired.

Employees in human resources also told McDonald’s legal department that they felt passed over for advancement opportunities because they weren’t part of an after-hours social circle among the leaders of that department, the Journal reported.

McDonald’s fired Easterbrook last year after he admitted to sending explicit text messages to an employee. He left with a huge severance package intact because while it was against company rules, the interactions he had with the employee were consensual.

Yet in July, McDonald’s received information from another company employee suggesting that Easterbrook had multiple affairs with subordinates. The same person also told the company about issues within the human resources department.

The company earlier this month sued Easterbrook to reclaim millions of dollars in compensation, saying he would have had to forfeit that money if he had been truthful about he extent of his relationships.

McDonald’s named Heidi Capozzi, who had worked for Boeing, as human resources chief in March. Capozzi is conducting a review of the department, including how performance is evaluated and how employee concerns are raised and investigated.

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