McDonald’s said on Tuesday that its investigation into misconduct claims within the company now included whether its former chief executive, Steve Easterbrook, may have covered up inappropriate actions by other executives during his tenure. The company also said it was examining the actions of its human resources department.
“The board will follow the facts wherever they may lead,” a company spokesman said in a statement about the investigation, details of which were reported earlier by Bloomberg. The company declined to elaborate on what prompted these new questions or on other details of the investigation.
McDonald’s dismissed Mr. Easterbrook after an employee notified the company that she had had an inappropriate relationship with him. The employee said she was worried that she would end up getting punished for the monthlong consensual relationship. She said the relationship consisted of sexually explicit text messages, photographs and at least one FaceTime call between herself and Mr. Easterbrook but was not physical.
McDonald’s hired outside lawyers to look into the accusations and to interview Mr. Easterbrook, who acknowledged the relationship. He told the lawyers that he had never engaged in a sexual relationship with an employee, and the company did not conduct a thorough review of his electronic records before dismissing him in November.
In the days following Mr. Easterbrook’s firing, the company’s human-resources chief, David Fairhurst, also departed. At the time, the company said that exit was not related to the investigation into Mr. Easterbrook’s relationship.
The spokesman said on Tuesday that Mr. Fairhurst had been terminated for inappropriate conduct. He declined to describe the conduct or to say whether Mr. Fairhurst was the subject of the ongoing investigation regarding Mr. Easterbrook.
Neither Mr. Fairhurst nor a lawyer for Mr. Easterbrook could be immediately reached for comment.
In early November, the company addressed Mr. Easterbrook’s departure during a town-hall meeting. Rick Hernandez Jr., the chairman of McDonald’s board, emphasized that there was one standard of conduct that applied to all employees.
Last month, Mr. Hernandez received a tip from an employee who said that another employee had been telling colleagues that she had had a sexual relationship with Mr. Easterbrook when he was the chief executive. The employee had been compelled to come forward because of Mr. Hernandez’s comments at the town hall, according to the company spokesman.
This prompted the current investigation by McDonald’s, which included a more thorough search of Mr. Easterbrook’s emails and produced the lawsuit against Mr. Easterbrook earlier this month. The company said it found “dozens of nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit photographs and videos of various women, including photographs of these company employees, that Easterbrook had sent as attachments to messages from his company email account to his personal email account,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, which was filed in state court in Delaware, accuses him of lying, concealing evidence and fraud. Lawyers for Mr. Easterbrook have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, calling it “meritless and misleading.”