CHICAGO (CBS/CBS News/AP) — McDonald’s Corporation announced Sunday that its chief executive officer has left the company after violating company policy by engaging in a consensual relationship with an employee.
In announcing former CEO Steve Easterbrook’s departure, the fast food giant said he demonstrated poor judgment. McDonald’s forbids managers from having romantic relationships with direct or indirect reports.
The board of directors named Chris Kempczinski as its new president and CEO. Kempczinski recently served as president of McDonald’s USA.
In an email to McDonald’s employees, Easterbrook called the relationship a “mistake.”
“Given the values of the company, I agree with the Board that it is time for me to move on,” Easterbrook said. “Please join me in congratulating Chris on his promotion. I know you will support him as you have supported me — he’s lucky to have a team of your caliber.”
Kempczinski thanked Easterbrook for his contributions and described him as a patient and helpful mentor.
Earlier this year, the fast food company had to deal publicly with allegations of sexual harassment.
Labor activists Fight for 15 and a union said in May that 25 McDonald’s employees came forward alleging that they were sexually harassed on the job. The accusations included groping, indecent exposure, propositions for sex and lewd comments by supervisors against workers as young as 16 years old, according to the labor groups.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund also backed the complaints, which included 20 claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and three filed lawsuits alleging civil rights violations.
Easterbrook responded in a letter saying the the company had started working with RAINN, a group devoted to curbing sexual violence, to improve conditions for employees and upgrade McDonald’s harassment policies.
In June, eight U.S. senators called on McDonald’s to require its franchisees do more to protect workers from harassment. In a letter, the lawmakers wrote “continued reports of workplace misconduct are unacceptable.”
Easterbrook took over as CEO in March 2015, promising to transform the chain into a “modern and progressive” company with a greater emphasis on customer service.
One month after taking over, Easterbrook said McDonald’s would be raising the minimum wage and increasing vacation time for employees. He told “CBS This Morning” that move would motivate teams and create better customer service.
Under Easterbrook’s time at the helm, McDonald’s financial performance improved, especially with sales soaring after the company introduced all-day breakfast in 2015.
The global headquarters for McDonald’s are located at Randolph and Carpenter streets in the West Loop.
Kate Gibson contributed to this report.
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