- Two African American senior executives for McDonald's have sued the fast-food giant, claiming "intentional race discrimination, disparate treatment, hostile work environment and unlawful retaliation" (Guster-Hines, et al. v. McDonald's USA LLC. et al. No. 20-cv-00117 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 7, 2020)).
- The executives, Vicki Guster-Hines and Domineca Neal, say the company has a "continuing pattern and practice of intentional race discrimination" that worsened when the company's former chief executive Steve Easterbrook — who was recently ousted over a consensual relationship with an employee — took over in 2015. The plaintiffs alleged in court papers that the company "purged" black executives, getting rid of 30 black officers and demoting five between 2014 and 2019, causing the number of black executives to decline from 42 to seven. The plaintiffs say the company devalued its once-strong African American customer base and used "strong-arm" tactics to reduce the number of black-owned franchises. They also said that at an April 2019 meeting to discuss the alleged lack of African American representation in upper management, the current McDonald's President and CEO said the "numbers [of African Americans] don't matter."
- In a statement emailed to HR Dive, McDonald's said it disagrees with the characterizations in the complaint and noted that "almost half of our Corporate Officers are people of color — an increase of nearly 10 percent from 2013 — and that all 10 of the U.S. Field Vice Presidents are people of color."
McDonald's has been in the news frequently as of late over employment issues. Headlines have included complaints, settlements and departures by top executives.
The company notched a win last month when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Dec. 12 approved a settlement agreement involving McDonald's franchises that absolved the corporation from joint employment responsibility for certain alleged labor violations. The company drew negative attention just weeks earlier when Easterbrook was booted from the company for violating corporate policy with a relationship with a co-worker. Three days after that, the restaurant lost its chief people officer.
Later that month, workers alleged the chain failed to act and prevent sexual harassment at a store in Michigan. Shortly thereafter, 17 McDonald's employees in Chicago filed suit against the company, claiming it failed to address violence at its restaurants.
The company resolved another lawsuit that same month, agreeing to pay $26 million to settle wage and hour claims filed by California cooks and cashiers. The suit claimed McDonald's violated state rules that entitle workers to overtime pay when they work more than eight hours in a 24-hour period and that the chain did not provide rest breaks or full meal breaks during busy times at the restaurant, and didn't properly reimburse employees for uniform maintenance. The class action was originally filed in 2013 on behalf of 38,000 employees across the state.
While the outcome of Guster-Hines is likely some time away, the suit may be yet another way employees are bringing alleged systemic corporate issues into the light.