A lawsuit filed by fast-food giant McDonald's on Monday accuses former CEO Steve Easterbrook of lying about sexual relationships he had with his employees and hiding photographic and video evidence in a willful violation of the company's human resource policies.
According to documents obtained by CNN, an internal investigation by the company revealed that Easterbrook misled investigations about engaging in a physical sexual relationship with three employees in the year before he was dismissed by the board last November.
McDonald's is seeking $42 million - the amount Easterbrook received after the company's board dismissed him 'without cause' last year. At the time, McDonald's board said Easterbrook had violated company policy and "demonstrated poor judgement" by engaging in a consensual relationship with an employee.
An internal investigation by the fast-food company found Easterbrook lied and destroyed records to conceal his behavior during the relationship that lasted a few weeks.
"The investigation confirmed that the alleged relationship had occurred and revealed that it had been a non-physical, consensual relationship involving texting and video calls," according to the complaint.
Easterbrook originally told investigators that this relationship was the "only one of an intimate nature" he had maintained with an employee, adding he never had a physical sexual relationship with someone who worked for him.
However, the investigation was reopened earlier this year after McDonald's received a anonymous tip that Easter had another physical sexual relationship with an employee while he was CEO. According to the documents, the company's investigation discovered three sexual relationships maintained by Easterbrook during his time as CEO. Some of the evidence for those relationships, including "dozens of nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit photographs and videos of various women," were allegedly sent by the ousted CEO from his work to his persona account.
At least one employee Easterbrook was engaged in a relationship with was approved for an "extraordinary stock grant, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars," according to the investigation.
McDonald's lawsuit claims that Easterbrook misled the board, leading them to believe that his firing could be considered "without cause," which entitled the ex-CEO to certain outgoing benefits and severance pay.
Easterbrook was promised 26 weeks severance pay, in addition to prorated bonuses as warranted. That compensation added up to about $42 million dollars, according to Equilar, an outside accounting firm.
McDonald's current CEO, Chris Kempczinski, addressed the lawsuit in a letter sent to employees Monday.
"We recently became aware, through an employee report, of new information regarding the conduct of our former CEO, Steve Easterbrook. We now know that his conduct deviated from our values in different and far more extensive ways than we were aware when he left the company last year," he said. "McDonald's does not tolerate behavior from any employee that does not reflect our values."
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