Employment Law Alert – Internal Investigations: Measure Twice, Cut Once
September 3, 2020
Recently filed litigation by McDonald’s Corp. against its former CEO Steve Easterbrook highlights the importance of conducting thorough and complete investigations at the first report of impropriety. In this instance, McDonald’s is seeking to recover tens of millions of dollars paid to Easterbrook in severance and benefits after he was fired having admitted to engaging in a consensual relationship with an employee in violation of company standards. McDonald’s later learned that Easterbrook may have lied about several other sexual relationships with employees which were not uncovered during the initial internal investigation. The lawsuit raises questions about and acknowledges the shortcomings of the initial investigation that allowed the full extent of Easterbrook’s misdeeds to go undetected. For example, investigators failed to initially conduct a complete review of Easterbrook’s email account, which would have revealed a cache of sexually explicit photos of company employees that Easterbrook sent from his company email account to his personal email account.
Employers presented with allegations of misconduct who invest in a thorough and appropriate internal investigation as soon as practicable are likely to receive a more complete and accurate assessment of liability and vulnerabilities. This initial investment of time and resources can be vital to preventing costly and embarrassing missteps in resolving complaints.
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The contents of this Alert are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact the Shulman Rogers attorney with whom you regularly work or a member of the Shulman Rogers Employment and Labor Law Group.