McDonalds fires CEO over consensual relationship- An Employment Law Mcflurry?

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

As you may have heard in the news in the past week, McDonalds’ CEO, Steve Easterbrook, was dismissed because of what was considered, under company policy, to be an inappropriate relationship with an employee.

For the first time in 19 years, more chief executives were dismissed for ethical lapses than for financial performance or board struggles in 2018, according to a study by one of the PWC’s units that analysed chief executive turnovers in the world’s 2,500 largest companies. In the burger chain’s case, the board voted to terminate Mr Easterbrook’s employment contract after investigating his relationship with an employee, which violated company policy. However, regardless of your personal views on the necessity of Mr Easterbrook’s dismissal, we must ask whether he has any form of legal redress in employment law. Was Mr Easterbrook unfairly dismissed?

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As with the majority of employment law, this is not a straightforward question and requires contextual knowledge of the situation. Whether the dismissal was fair will ultimately hinge on whether McDonalds conducted a procedurally fair process when investigating and making the determination that dismissal was the appropriate course of action to take.

The hypothetical employment tribunal must decide whether the employer’s decision to dismiss the employee fell within a range of reasonable responses that an objective reasonable employer in those circumstances and in that business might have adopted. It is easy for McDonalds to hide behind their policy handbook, but was it objectively reasonable for them to dismiss him for breaching it?

There are no easy answers, with scope for either party to argue for or against the reasonableness of the dismissal. As stated above, contextual knowledge is vital to being able to fully advise.

Similar to a Mcflurry, an unfair dismissal claim can become messy rather quickly!

To make sense of it all, and to assist you in bringing or defending an employment claim, please get in contact with our Employment Department.