Workplace romance lands McDonald’s CEO in hot water

Steve Easterbrook, CEO of international corporation McDonald’s, was dismissed after admitting to having been engaged in a relationship with an employee.

Easterbrook had held the position of CEO of McDonald’s in the UK and Northern Europe since 2015 and was instrumental in the company’s revitalisation and advancements in recent years, where share price managed to double in value.

Easterbrook had been involved in what was described as a consensual relationship with an employee.  The decision to dismiss the CEO was effectively based on McDonald’s policies and rules against conflict of interest.  Easterbrook himself acknowledged that the relationship was out of line in his professional context and agreed to step down from his role.  He will be sent home with a severance package of 26 weeks full pay, while remaining eligible for a bonus.

Several companies have adopted similar policies, applying an outright ban on inter-employee relationships, or else requiring the disclosure of the existence of any such relationships to the employer.  While this may appear to be a severe invasion of privacy, these kinds of relationships can unfortunately have a detrimental effect on businesses, whether due to conflict of interest and preferential treatment, or from the consequential effects which occur when things take a turn for the worse.  Do keep in mind that this is strictly separate from policies regarding unsolicited sexual harassment – this case regarded a consensual relationship.

Companies should certainly take relationships at the workplace into consideration when drafting their employee policies, assessing both the scale and complexity of operations.  Consider your options – to what extent will your company’s ethos tolerate these kinds of relationships?