Steve Easterbrook, the CEO of McDonald’s, was fired by the firm after having a relationship with an employee, violating company policy, the chain confirmed on Sunday.
The board of McDonald’s named Chris Kempczinski, the former president of McDonald’s USA, as the company’s replacement president and CEO.
“I engaged in a recent consensual relationship with an employee, which violated McDonald’s policy. This was a mistake. Given the values of the company, I agree with the board that it is time for me to move on. Beyond this, I hope you can respect my desire to maintain my privacy,” Easterbrook, who became the chief executive in March, said in an email, according to reports.
And the firm said that he “violated company policy and demonstrated poor judgment involving a recent consensual relationship with an employee,” reported the Financial Times.
The nature of the relationship was not disclosed.
In the statement, Kempczinski gave thanks to Easterbrook for his contributions and called him patient and helpful, The Associated Press reported.
Joe Erlinger, president of the international operated markets, will now be named head of McDonald’s USA, Yahoo News reported.
Easterbrook, who is from the United Kingdom, became the Chicago-based company’s CEO in 2015 and has been credited with helping the company initiate a major turnaround over the past several years.
The move comes a few months after McDonald’s was accused in 25 new lawsuits and regulatory charges of condoning sexual harassment in the workplace and retaliating against employees who speak up, Reuters reported.
The Chicago-based company said it has more than 14,000 locations in the United States with some 850,000 workers.
More than 90 percent of the locations are franchised, and McDonald’s has long maintained it should not be liable for how employees in franchised restaurants behave.
Easterbrook had said his company has improved and more clearly defined its harassment policies, has trained most franchise owners, and will be training front-line employees and setting up a complaint hotline.
“McDonald’s is sending a clear message that we are committed to creating and sustaining a culture of trust where employees feel safe, valued and respected,” Easterbrook wrote in letters this week to Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth and “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi, who supports the workers’ cause.
Reuters contributed to this report.