McDonald's is suing its former CEO for millions. Here's why

While it's a truly reprehensible practice that we certainly hope we've seen the last of, it's no secret that in the past there have been several industries, particularly the entertainment industry, where top execs have tacitly condoned a "casting couch" mentality in which young, attractive women (and men) were expected to exchange sexual favors for advancement. One thing nobody would have ever suspected, however, was a casting couch for the fast-food industry. But sexual harassment creeps in everywhere, and former McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook was involved in one such scandal.

Easterbrook was let go last fall after word got out that he'd had a consensual relationship with an unnamed employee that, although details were not provided, was nevertheless of such a nature as to violate a company policy which forbids managers from becoming involved with their supervisees. According to a statement Easterbrook made at the time, he called the whole thing a mistake and admitted, "I agree with the board that it is time for me to move on" (via AP News). Of course, Easterbrook's pain and suffering were undoubtedly eased by a severance package that The New York Times said was worth over $40 million, but there's no word on whether the employee got anything more than a pink slip and a "don't let the door hit you" on her way out.

Further accusations against Easterbrook have recently come to light

So why, eight months later, is McDonald's suddenly suing to get back the millions they awarded Easterbrook when he left the company? Well, it all started when an anonymous tip revealed yet another affair that Easterbrook had engaged in during the time period in question. Further investigation revealed that Mickey D's ex-CEO had actually been involved in no fewer than three such forbidden romances (whether serial or simultaneous, we're still not quite sure) during his final year at the helm. The NYT reveals that one of those employees was even rewarded with a significant amount of shares in the company, so she, at least, did get something out of the deal.

What Easterbrook is now getting, however, is sued by McDonald's on the grounds that he'd repeatedly lied, concealed evidence, and committed fraud. Evidently one illicit romance could be excused on the grounds of the heart wants what it wants, but three in a single year... yeah, that tells a whole different story, and one that's just not gonna fly in the #MeToo era. As other companies scramble to eliminate traces of prejudiced advertising (including a restaurant that formerly went by the shockingly racist name of Sambo's), McDonald's felt they simply couldn't risk any appearance of their having turned a blind eye to Easterbrook's misconduct. After all, they'd already gotten rid of Ronald, so it was about time they dealt with the dark secret that they'd unwittingly been harboring.