The lawsuit claims that Michael Peaster faced bias after he criticized Chris Kempczinski during a town hall meeting about a text message the CEO sent to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
A Black McDonald’s executive has filed a lawsuit against the fast-food chain, alleging racial discrimination at the hands of CEO Chris Kempczinski.
According to Business Insider, Michael Peaster managed Kempczinski’s protection while serving as vice president of global safety, security and intelligence.
The lawsuit alleges that Peaster challenged Kempczinski during a 2021 town hall meeting, prompting a monthslong campaign to get him fired. The focus of the meeting was a 2021 text message that the CEO sent to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in which he blamed the parents of two children who had been shot and killed — one at an area McDonald’s.
“With both, the parents failed those kids which I know is something you can’t say,” Kempczinski said in the text, Business Insider reported. “Even harder to fix.”
The CEO faced backlash, as critics branded his text ignorant and racist.
According to the lawsuit, Peaster said he thought Kempczinski was in denial about why many individuals believed his texts were racist and were outraged. “We cannot broad brush the violence issues in Chicago to make it appear that all parents who have children who are victims to gun violence are bad parents,” Peaster said, in part, during the town hall meeting.
He added that they must show understanding and compassion for most families that struggle to make ends meet and keep their children safe while living in challenging neighborhoods.
The suit alleges that Peaster did not face immediate reprisals or punishment for his remarks. However, in the year before his termination, which became effective on Dec. 31, he experienced discrimination and exclusion. “This termination was discriminatory against Michael Peaster because of his race,” the suit reads. “It was retaliatory against Michael Peaster based on his respectful but legitimate contradiction of Kempczinski on the subject of race.”
Peaster’s is not the only lawsuit against his former employer that has been filed during Kempczinski’s tenure.
Vicki Guster-Hines and Domineca Neal, two Black McDonald’s executives, sued the company for discrimination in January 2020. According to the lawsuit — which is in the discovery phase, the plaintiffs’ attorneys say — the corporation cost the plaintiffs millions of dollars in lost wages and benefits and caused “emotional distress, humiliation, and related physical suffering” under former CEO Steve Easterbrook and later Kempczinski.
In August 2020, 52 Black ex-franchisees filed a $1 billion racial discrimination lawsuit against McDonald’s, claiming that the burger giant intentionally set up shops in “crime-ridden” areas with low sales and misled them about the financial potential of owning restaurants.
In the Peaster case, McDonald’s claims his timeline is inaccurate because he was promoted to vice president in January 2022, two months after he delivered the remarks as a “senior director.” Despite his allegations, the company contends, Peaster was fired in November because of his subpar job performance. “The claims run completely afoul of the facts and the values our leadership team and company uphold,” McDonald’s said in a statement, according to Business Insider. “Mr. Peaster was promoted in January 2022; however, he was subsequently terminated due to serious performance issues in his expanded role.”
The statement continues, “To suggest that his termination was based on retaliation or anything other than performance lapses is to completely ignore the facts. We intend to vigorously defend against this lawsuit and to continue to lead with our values.”
A representative for Peaster told Business Insider that the executive had held the same position since 2010, but officials in 2022 reinstated him to an officer-level role that was planned before the town hall.
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