McDonald’s sues ousted CEO, alleging he destroyed evidence of inappropriate relationships with employees

FILE - This Oct. 17, 2019 file photo shows a McDonald's sign along Interstate 40/85 in Burlington, N.C. McDonalds sales improved throughout the second quarter, Tuesday, July 28, 2020,  as markets reopened globally, but the fast food giant still faces a bumpy recovery. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)
FILE - This Oct. 17, 2019 file photo shows a McDonald's sign along Interstate 40/85 in Burlington, N.C. McDonalds sales improved throughout the second quarter, Tuesday, July 28, 2020, as markets reopened globally, but the fast food giant still faces a bumpy recovery. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

McDonald’s says it's suing Stephen Easterbrook, the CEO it ousted last year over an inappropriate relationship with an employee, alleging Monday that he covered up relationships with three other employees and destroyed evidence.

The company now wants to reclaim millions of dollars in compensation paid to Easterbrook.

“McDonald's does not tolerate behavior from employees that does not reflect our values,” said McDonald's President and CEO Chris Kempczinski, who was promoted following Easterbrook's departure, in a message to employees Monday.

The lawsuit puts a spotlight — again — on a years-long reckoning over sexual harassment at Chicago-based McDonald's and its 39,000 restaurants. In the U.S. alone, more than 50 workers have filed separate sexual harassment charges against McDonald’s with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or in state courts.

Leaders with Fight for $15, which supports higher wages and unions for fast food workers, said Monday that McDonald's should use any money it recoups from Easterbrook for worker-led programs that combat sexual harassment.

In his message to employees, Kempczinski said he is committed to making sure that employees are “encouraged and comfortable coming forward with information about any behavior that doesn't align with our values.”

McDonald's also told workers Monday it is conducting a global survey and listening sessions to assess the current state of its corporate culture. The assessment will be completed and shared with employees in November, McDonald’s Chief People Officer Heidi Capozzi said in a message obtained by The Associated Press.

McDonald’s fired Easterbrook last November after he acknowledged exchanging videos and text messages in a non-physical, consensual relationship with an employee. Easterbrook told the company that there were no other similar instances. An initial search of his cellphone confirmed that.