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Boardroom drama at McDonald’s as CEO is ousted for flouting rules on employee relationships

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McDonald’s has begun the week with a new leadership team in place after one of the most dramatic weekends in its history saw its CEO fired for engaging in a consensual relationship with an employee.

The fast food chain confirmed yesterday that it had parted ways with CEO Steve Easterbrook (main image) and accused him of demonstrating “poor judgement” for the relationship. Board members determined that he had violated company policy after meeting to discuss the situation.

Employees who have a direct or indirect reporting relationship to each other are prohibited from dating or having a sexual relationship, according to McDonald’s ‘Standards of Business Conduct’ document.

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It states that such relationships are forbidden in order to avoid situations in which workplace conduct could negatively impact the work environment.

The company did not name the employee that Mr Easterbrook had the relationship with or give any details about when it took place.

News outlets reported that Mr Easterbrook had emailed staff before he left, acknowledging he had broken internal rules.

He wrote: “I engaged in a recent consensual relationship with an employee, which violated McDonald’s policy. This was a mistake. Given the values of the company, I agree with the board that it is time for me to move on. Beyond this, I hope you can respect my desire to maintain my privacy.”

Mr Easterbrook had served as CEO of McDonald’s for five years after previously leading its UK and Northern European business. He earned a salary of almost $16m (£12m) last year and had been overseeing the biggest franchise growth project in its history.

Chris Kempczinski, who most recently ran McDonald’s USA, has taken over as Mr Easterbrook successor, while Joe Erlinger (below), president of international operated markets, has been been appointed president of McDonald’s USA.

“Joe is a respected leader who is returning to the US after working around the world for McDonald’s,” said Mr Kempczinski. “He has a proven track record of driving strong results through collaboration with franchisees and a relentless focus on the customer. I am proud and excited that one of my first moves as CEO is to announce his appointment, and am confident in all he will bring to our US business.”

In his new role, Mr Erlinger will be responsible for the business operations of approximately 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the United States, reporting to Mr Kempczinski.

Mr Erlinger said: “Our US business is the heartbeat of McDonald’s. I look forward to working with our franchisees to build upon the transformational progress in our largest market. With a talented team that is committed to running great restaurants, we have tremendous momentum to deliver on our brand promise to all of our customers.”

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Andrew Seymour

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