Crusader Staff Report
Two Black executives at McDonald’s have filed a lawsuit accusing the fast food chain of discrimination and removing a large number of employees of color from its top ranks.
Vicki Guster-Hines and Domineca Neal on Tuesday, January 7 filed a lawsuit in Chicago, saying they worked in a “hostile and abusive work environment” that included threats, derogatory racial comments and barriers that kept Blacks from advancing in the company.
Both were demoted from vice president to senior director positions in July 2018 during a corporate restructuring under former CEO Steve Easterbrook. The suit said Easterbook went on a “ruthless purge” of Blacks from its ranks of senior executives.
Guster-Hines and Neal alleged their demotions were because of their support for the National Black Owners Association, which has protested the “startling decrease in Black-owned McDonald’s franchises.
The suit claims the number of Black executives at McDonald’s operations fell from 42 in 2014 to just seven last year.
The suit names Easterbrook as a defendant as well as McDonald’s current chief executive, Chris Kempczinski, and Charles Strong, West Zone president for the fast food chain.
“In shocking ways difficult to overstate, McDonald’s under Easterbrook and Kempczinski declared war against the African American community,” the lawsuit alleges.
McDonald’s said it disagreed with the characterization of the company’s behavior. In a statement, it said 45 percent of its corporate officers and all of its field vice-presidents are people of color.
Easterbrook was fired in November after admitting to having a consensual relationship with an employee. He left with over $37 million in stock awards and a severance deal of $675,000.
“At McDonald’s, our actions are rooted in our belief that a diverse, vibrant, inclusive and respectful company makes us stronger,” the company said in a statement. “While we disagree with characterizations in the complaint, we are currently reviewing it and will respond to the complaint accordingly.”
Guster-Hines and Neal reportedly filed a discrimination suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The lawsuit cites $2 million in lost pay and benefits for Guster-Hines and “hundreds of thousands of dollars” for Neal.
Both women are on a leave of absence from McDonald’s.
According to the lawsuit, in 2005, an Ohio regional vice president called Guster-Hines a racial slur. Guster-Hines reported the alleged incident to her superiors, but McDonald’s did “absolutely nothing” about it. After Guster-Hines was promoted to vice president of franchising and operations for the Houston office, Strong, the West Zone president allegedly called her and other Black employees “angry Black women.”
Guster-Hines alleges that the stressful environment forced her to take a 12-week medical leave of absence in September 2017.
In 2015, shortly after Easterbrook’s appointment, 10 former McDonald’s workers in Virginia filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the fast-food chain, claiming they were fired because the stores had “too many Black people.”