McDonald’s Fires CEO for Office Fling. Does Your Worksite Have a Dating Policy?

 

​McDonald's fired its chief executive officer (CEO) for dating an employee in violation of company policy. Although no law bans managers from having consensual romantic relationships with subordinates, many employers have policies against such behavior because it can cause productivity and morale issues and lead to sexual-harassment and other legal claims against the employer. 

Still, 1 in 3 U.S. adults are or have been in a workplace romance, according to a poll from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

We've rounded up articles and resources from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets on this topic.

Easterbrook Ousted

On Nov. 1, the McDonald's board of directors voted to fire CEO Steve Easterbrook after investigating a consensual, romantic relationship with an unidentified employee and determining that he "violated company policy and demonstrated poor judgment," according to a company statement. Easterbrook then sent an e-mail to McDonald's employees acknowledging the relationship and violation of the company's personal conduct rules. The fast-food giant's president, Chris Kempczinski, will now take over as CEO.

(Business Insider)

Head HR Executive Departs

A few days after Easterbrook's discharge, McDonald's announced that Chief People Officer David Fairhurst has left the company, but no details were provided. Fairhurst was employed with McDonald's for about 15 years, worked with Easterbrook in the United Kingdom and was promoted to the top HR role shortly after Easterbrook became CEO.

(The Wall Street Journal)

Workplace Romances Are Common

About 48 percent of respondents to a survey by Reboot Digital Marketing said they have dated a co-worker at some point, even though 46 percent of employers said they discourage employees from dating each other. Twenty-two percent of respondents said they had a romantic relationship with their boss, and 36 percent said they had an office romance involving a married partner. "Workplace romance is unavoidable but can be tricky to handle when issues arise such as wanting time off together, arguments which adversely affect productivity and distractions caused by office gossip, said Reboot Digital Marketing's HR manager, Naomi Aharony. "If a relationship breaks down, then this can be very disruptive for a business, especially if two key people are involved."

(Reboot Digital Marketing)

'No Means No' Policy

Some organizations, such as Facebook, have a "no means no" policy that prohibits one worker from asking another out again if the co-worker has already said no once before. While the company does not prohibit dating among workers, it says it wants an environment "where no one has to worry about avoiding unwanted invitations or unwelcome flirting." Among 1,010 workers SHRM surveyed in January 2019, 17 percent who never had a workplace romance refrained from pursuing one because they were concerned about potential sexual-harassment claims, with more men than women stating this.

(SHRM Online)

Disclosure Is Important

"In this #MeToo era, employers could enforce strict policies forbidding workplace relationships, but experience tells us office romance would still happen," said SHRM's president and CEO, Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP. He noted that disclosure is important. "While many workplace romances are perfectly acceptable, there are instances when intimate relationships are out of bounds," he said. "These include some relationships involving a significant imbalance of power—senior management person and a newly hired younger employee, for example." Such circumstances could lead to real or perceived favoritism and the potential for intimidation, retaliation or sexual-harassment claims. 

(USA Today)

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