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Inside the cultural reckoning at McDonald’s

April 5, 2021, 1:08 PM UTC
HONG KONG, CHINA - 2020/07/25: A pedestrian walks past an American fast-food hamburger restaurant chain McDonald's logo seen in Hong Kong. (Photo by Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Budrul Chukrut—SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The Government Accountability Office questions Ivanka Trump’s women’s empowerment initiative, the Biden infrastructure plan could boost the careers of women in construction, and McDonald’s is in the middle of a cultural upheaval. Have a great Monday.

– The McStory. If you’ve followed business headlines over the past year, McDonald’s must have come across your radar. In the latest issue of Fortune, senior editor Beth Kowitt dives into the upheaval inside the Golden Arches.

It all started with ex-CEO Steve Easterbrook, who in 2019 was fired for sexting with a McDonald’s employee. The company alleges that it later discovered evidence of other sexual relationships—and an attempt by Easterbrook to cover them up—leading the business to file a lawsuit against its former leader to claw back his exit compensation. (Easterbrook’s lawyers call the suit meritless.)

But Easterbrook’s ouster is just the tip of the iceberg. He represented a new kind of management at McDonald’s, ditching the longstanding “McFamily” philosophy at the tight-knit corporation for the business-first “McTeam.”

His scandal puts the spotlight on the other lawsuits McDonald’s is currently involved in, which include one from two former Black executives, Victoria Guster-Hines and Domineca Neal, who allege racial discrimination and a hostile work environment (McDonald’s disagrees with the characterizations in the complaint); allegations of racial discrimination from Black franchisees (former U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch is representing McDonald’s in those cases, and says it’s “illogical” that McDonald’s would set up any of its franchisees to fail); and the ongoing allegations of sexual harassment in McDonald’s restaurants.

ACLU attorney Gillian Thomas, who is handling some of the sexual harassment complaints against McDonald’s stores, says the comparison between the company’s strong response to misconduct by its CEO and its approach to allegations of sexual harassment in its restaurants. “The contrast couldn’t be more stark,” she says. “It says a lot about whose lives they think matter.”

Easterbrook’s tenure was all about transforming McDonald’s business. Now, his successor, CEO Chris Kempczinski, is focusing on culture first. Beth, who has covered McDonald’s for years, explains exactly what’s at stake for the company—and what a cultural reset at the chain means for its workers, franchisees, and corporate staff. Read the rest of her in-depth story here.

Emma Hinchliffe

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


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How Matt Gaetz got here New York Times

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"I don’t know why my truest essence is that of a 14-year-old boy, but here we are."

-Comedian and actor Nasim Pedrad. Her new show is Chad, where she plays the titular teen boy character.