McDonald's says former CEO Steve Easterbrook covered up the number of sexual relationships he had with employees—and he may have also covered up misconduct by other executives. The company announced Wednesday that it was widening its investigation to include the HR department, which was led by Easterbrook's friend David Fairhurst. "The board will follow the facts wherever they may lead," the company said. It said an outside legal firm has been hired to investigate possible cover-ups. Sources tell the Wall Street Journal that Fairhurst regularly socialized outside the office with employees, and the company carried out an internal investigation in 2018 after an employee complained about "inappropriate physical contact" between Fairhurst and a subordinate at a holiday party where people were drinking heavily.
Former managers tell the Journal that they felt passed over for promotions because they weren't part of an after-hours social circle involving Easterbrook, Fairhurst, and other execs. Fairhurst departed the company abruptly days after Easterbrook was fired last year. McDonald's—which said at the time that his exit was unrelated to the CEO's departure—admitted Tuesday that he was fired for inappropriate conduct, reports the New York Times. McDonald's filed a lawsuit earlier this month seeking to claw back tens of millions of dollars in compensation from Easterbrook, saying he would have had to forfeit it if they had known about his relationships with at least three employees. The lawsuit said a search of his emails revealed "dozens of nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit photographs and videos of various women, including photographs of these company employees." (Read more McDonald's stories.)