Two Black senior executives at McDonald's filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the fast-food chain, claiming they were demoted as a result of racial discrimination, according to The Guardian.
Vicki Guster-Hines and Domineca Neal allege that under former chief executive Steve Easterbrook, employees endured consistent racial discrimination while the company "conducted a ruthless purge" of high-ranking Black employees.
Easterbook replaced McDonald's first Black CEO, Don Thompson, when he took over in 2015.
CNBC reports that the two women faced backlash after protesting against company culture.
According to the lawsuit, the number of senior Black employees went from 42 in 2014 to seven in 2019.
Both of the women were demoted from vice president roles to senior director positions in July 2018 during the purge. They are now demanding compensation for a loss in wages that occurred because of the racially motivated demotions.
The food chain denies a racially induced purge of employees. In a statement, they claim 45% of corporate employees and field vice presidents are people of color.
“At McDonald’s, our actions are rooted in our belief that a diverse, vibrant, inclusive and respectful company makes us stronger,” the statement read. “While we disagree with characterizations in the complaint, we are currently reviewing it and will respond to the complaint accordingly.”
“In the U.S., in particular, almost half of our Corporate Officers are people of color — an increase of nearly 10% from 2013 — and all 10 of the U.S. Field Vice Presidents are people of color,” the statement continued.
The lawsuit states that in 2019 during a meeting current chief executive Chris Kempczinski, who is also listed in the lawsuit, said that the “numbers [of African Americans] don’t matter.”
The Guardian reports that since the departure of Easterbrook, the company is conducting an examination of its work environment.
Guster-Hines and Neal say that the company cultivated a "hostile and abusive work environment" for Black executives and franchisees.
Easterbrook, who took over the company in 2015, was eventually forced out of the company in 2019. It was reported he had an affair with a colleague that was against company rules.
According to the Wall Street Journal, staff claim under the leadership of Easterbrook, there were instances of “late-night socializing with some executives and staffers at bars and flirtations with female employees.”
The lawsuit is the latest of allegations made toward the company and Easterbrook. In 2015, 10 former employees in Virginia filed a lawsuit claiming they were fired because the store had “too many black people.”
An investigation was also conducted in Brazil after reports of widespread racial discrimination and sexual harassment occurring within the local offices.