Racial Discrimination Lawsuit by Former McDonald's Security Exec Alleges CEO Barred Him from Corporate Jet
Michael Peaster claims he was fired for publicly criticizing CEO Chris Kempczinski over a controversial text.
Michael Peaster, who served as the vice president of global safety, security, and intelligence at McDonald's until he was fired in 2021, has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the company and CEO Chris Kempczinski.
According to Peaster, Kempczinski consistently undermined him and even barred him from flying on the company's private jet. This happened after Peaster challenged the CEO during a town-hall meeting. The meeting was called to discuss a text message Kempczinski sent to Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot about a pair of shootings. It read, in part, "p.s. tragic shootings in last week, both at our restaurant yesterday and with Adam Toldeo. With both, the parents failed those kids which I know is something you can't say. Even harder to fix."
Once it was made public months later, the message was called victim-blaming and racist, and Kempczinski later said his words "lacked the empathy and compassion" he felt for the grieving families.
Business Insider reports that during the town hall, Peaster said, "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. We have to have empathy and compassion for the majority of families who live in tough communities that work hard to provide for their family and keep them safe."
Peaster's comments drew applause at the time. He later claimed, however, that he felt discriminated against and ostracized in the year leading up to his dismissal. Peaster claimed he was criticized for making Kempczinski feel "unsafe" in Mexico City and São Paulo, according to the lawsuit.
McDonald's disputes Peaster's timeline and claims that his termination was due to performance issues.
McDonald's has faced other allegations of racial discrimination since Kempczinski took the reins. In January 2020, two Black executives at the company filed a discrimination lawsuit claiming they suffered emotional distress, humiliation, and physical suffering. In September 2020, a judge dismissed an anti-discrimination lawsuit filed by 52 Black former franchisees seeking $1 billion. The plaintiffs turned around and refiled an amended suit after the dismissal.
Despite the lawsuits, McDonald's has maintained that the allegations of racial discrimination are unfounded and that the company is committed to diversity and equal opportunity.