McDonald's, CEO Steve Easterbrook fired for "recklessness"

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In the «code of conduct» of McDonald's there is no explicit rule prohibiting a sexual relationship between a manager and an employee of the group. Instead, there are "standard principles", including this: "Employees have the right to work in a place free of harassment, intimidation or abuse, sexual or otherwise, and free from acts or threats of physical violence … For the purposes of this policy, harassment includes disparagement, offensive comments, jokes, electronic communications and other visual, verbal or physical conduct that could create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. In addition to the above, "sexual harassment" includes unsolicited sex-related proposals, requests for sexual favors and other sexual conduct ". The regulation refers, however, to other «operational directives for Human Resources McDonald's available on the internal network».

On Friday November 1st the multinational board decided however, to dismiss CEO Steve Easterbrook, after discovering that he had had a consensual relationship with an employee of the company. Of course it is the adjective "consensual" that opened the debate not only in the United States. The official McDonald's statement refers to the violation of the corporate "policy" and, particularly interesting, to the "poor judgment", to the imprudence, to the manager's rash behavior. Easterbrook accepted the choice of the company, acknowledging "the mistake".

Company codes and directives have existed since before the #MeToo movement was born on the wave of the Weinstein scandal. On the contrary, according to various researches the great majority of companies have adopted anti-harassment codes. Furthermore, we must always remember that in the United States personal rights are protected everywhere, and therefore also in the workplace, by the pivotal law of 1964 and by numerous other state laws. Yet, according to a 2016 poll by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 60% of women workers had received "unwanted sexual attention, explicit approaches, sexist comments, sexual abuse", in factories and offices. The most disturbing fact is that 90% of the victims never submitted a formal complaint and 75% did not even report it to a superior. It is useful, therefore, to start from this reality to understand the grip on the interpretation of existing rules, as happened at McDonald's. There are some precedents. We mention one coming from the tech world; the other from the traditional factory. Vice Media, a large digital media group, fired two top figures, President Andrew Creighton and manager Mike Germano, after some 24 employees had let the New York Times to have been subjected to sexual harassment. Also in this case the Vice board made reference to the internal directives, applying them more rigidly. Ford, on the other hand, was hit by a series of sexual harassment complaints in two Chicago facilities. The facts date back to 2017. The managing director of the automotive company, Jim Hackett, reinforced the internal rules with a training program to "teach mutual respect" among workers.

November 4, 2019 (modified November 4, 2019 | 17:49)

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