McDonald’s Fires C.E.O. Steve Easterbrook After Relationship With Employee

Mr. Kempczinski will take over at a time when the broader fast-food industry faces significant headwinds, with Americans turning to healthier options and a tight labor market making hiring difficult.

“Casual dining has suffered, fast casual, upstarts that everybody fell in love with have struggled,” said John Hamburger, the editor of Franchise Times, another industry publication. “And McDonald’s seems like they’ve been pretty good at driving the business forward.”

Even as its business performance has improved, however, McDonald’s has faced criticism from labor advocates who argue that the chain’s low-wage workers, some of whom make less than $10 an hour, are mistreated and underpaid. Earlier this year, several Democratic presidential candidates joined striking workers demanding a $15 minimum wage, union rights and better protection from sexual harassment.

McDonald’s recently began offering new online and in-person training programs to its employees in the U.S. in an effort to combat workplace sexual harassment. But that step has not satisfied the company’s critics.

Tanya Harrell, a McDonald’s worker in New Orleans who has helped lead the campaign for a $15 minimum wage, said workers had filed dozens of complaints with McDonald’s demanding that the company take action to address sexual harassment. McDonald’s has ignored the demands, Ms. Harrell said, including requests to sit down with workers to discuss the issue.

“With the firing of Steve Easterbrook, we now know why,” she said. “It’s clear McDonald’s culture is rotten from top to bottom. McDonald’s needs to sit down with worker-survivors and put them at the center of any solution.”

As the chain has focused on delivery and other technological advances, it has also experienced friction in its relationship with its franchisees. An advocacy group representing McDonald’s franchisees, the National Owners Association, formed in 2018. A recent survey conducted by the group found that the majority of the 800 franchisees polled were not satisfied with the economics of online food delivery, in which the third-party apps take a sizable cut of each order. (Blake Casper, the chairman of the franchisee group, did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday night.)