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McDonald’s CEO’s ouster reflects trend on workplace romances
By ALEXANDRA OLSON and DEE-ANN DURBIN | 04:35 EST
NEW YORK (AP) — Workplace couples are often romanticized — think Bill and Melinda Gates or Michelle and Barack Obama. But when the relationship involves two people with unequal power, it can also be fraught with peril, especially in the #MeToo era.
McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook is only the latest chief executive to be ousted over a consensual relationship with an employee. Increasingly, U.S. companies are adopting policies addressing workplace romances, a trend that began well before the #MeToo movement galvanized a national conversation surrounding sexual misconduct.
Addressing workplace romance can be complicated, but many companies have removed any gray areas by forbidding managers, especially C-suite executives, from having relationships with subordinates given the potential for favoritism or lawsuits if the relationship sours.
There are questions about whether consent is truly possible when the power imbalance is especially great. Many women who have come forward to share their #MeToo stories have said that they feared the consequences of saying no to a powerful person who could influence their careers.
“That power difference can create a dynamic where the relationship can never truly be consensual,” said Debra Katz, a founder partner of the law firm Katz Marshall & Banks who has represented women in several prominent sexual harassment cases. “The #MeToo movement has shown how quickly it can go from consensual in the beginning to a huge problem when the relationship goes awry.”
Easterbrook’s departure comes as McDonald’s steps up its efforts to stop sexual harassment after dozens of employee complaints.
Over the last three years, more than 50 McDonald’s employees have filed cases alleging sexual harassment with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or in state courts, according to Fight for $15, a labor advocacy group.
In August, the hamburger chain unveiled a program to teach its 850,000 U.S. employees how to recognize and report harassment and bullying. Franchisees — who own 95% of McDonald’s 14,000 U.S. restaurants — aren’t required to offer the training, but the company expects them to provide it.
McDonald’s said Easterbrook violated company policy forbidding managers from having romantic relationships with direct or indirect subordinates. In an email to employees, Easterbrook said the relationship was a mistake and he agreed “it is time for me to move on.” He was replaced by Chris Kempczinski, who recently served as president of McDonald’s USA.
Time’s Up, a group that fights harassment and has been supporting workers’ legal cases, said Easterbrook’s departure should provide an opportunity for McDonald’s to do more, including making sexual harassment training mandatory.
“Under the new leadership of Chris Kempczinski, McDonald’s has an opportunity, and obligation, to act to ensure that all of its locations are safe and equitable for all,” said Jennifer Klein, chief strategy and policy officer at Time’s Up.
Easterbrook followed in the footsteps of Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich, who resigned last year after the chipmaker found he engaged in a relationship that violated a “non-fraternization” policy that applies to all managers.
Other CEOs who have been pushed out over consensual relationships, include Darren Huston of online travel company Priceline, Brian Dunn of Best Buy and Harry Stonecipher of aerospace company Boeing.
In 2005 — the year Stonecipher was pushed out — just a quarter of U.S. workplaces had policies addressing consensual relationships, according to the Society for Human Resources Management, the world’s largest group of human resources professionals.
By 2013, the number had jumped to 42%, according to a SHRM survey that year of 384 of its members. Of those workplaces, 99% prohibited romance between a supervisor and a direct report.
SHRM has not conducted a more recent survey on the issue, but other research suggests such policies are even more common now. In a 2018 survey of 150 human resources executives, the executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that 78% of companies had policies discouraging dating between subordinates and managers.
Much more complicated is how far to go with such policies. Not all policies pertain just to bosses and their underlings.
The SHRM study found that 45% employers with workplace romance policies forbid relationships between employees of significant rank differences, while 35% prohibited them between employees who report to the same supervisor.
Many human resources professionals, however, believe it’s unrealistic to adopt a blanket ban on workplace romance.
A SHRM survey from January 2019 found that one-third of American adults have been in a romantic relationship with someone at work.
“People meet at work. It’s not an uncommon place for romantic relationships to start,” said John Gannon, an employment law attorney with Skoler Abbott in Springfield, Massachusetts.
A growing trend among small companies is to sponsor happy hours for their staffers to increase camaraderie, said David Lewis, CEO of HR provider OperationsInc, based in Norwalk, Connecticut. Those events can be fertile ground for romantic relationships, so it’s hard for a business owner to then tell staffers to break up or quit, he said.
Some companies have what are known as “love contract,” which require disclosing relationships to the company and agreeing to act appropriately.
Lewis said he has seen a big increase in business owners asking for on-site training sessions for employees to raise their awareness on what constitutes harassment. Those sessions discuss relationships between staffers and warn that both partners in a relationship must act professionally with no public displays of affection. And they’re expected to remain professional if they break up.
AP Business writer Joyce Rosenberg contributed to this story.
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Hong Kong leader says she has Xi’s backing to tackle unrest
By EILEEN NG | Tue, November 5, 2019 09:36 EST
HONG KONG (AP) — Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Tuesday that she has received the backing of Chinese President Xi Jinping in her handling of five months of anti-government protests in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, as hundreds of masked demonstrators took to the streets again.
Xi and Lam unexpectedly held talks Monday night on the sidelines of a trade event in Shanghai amid signals from China’s central government that it may tighten its grip on Hong Kong to quell the unrest that has at times challenged Chinese rule.
Lam told a news conference in Shanghai that Xi expressed “care and concern” during their brief meeting, along with support for measures taken by her government to end the crisis. She vowed that the government will strive to stamp out violence with strict law enforcement.
Lam said she was disturbed by mounting injuries during the protests, including an incident early Monday that left a 22-year-old university student sprawled in a pool of blood at a carpark building after police fired tear gas. Hospital officials said the victim was in a critical condition.
Lam said investigations would be carried out to determine exactly what happened, and that the case drove home the government’s message that violence must cease.
Television footage showed riot police firing tear gas at the building after objects were hurled down at the street at them when they chased off a mob. Minutes later, medical workers found the unconscious student on the second floor of the building.
Senior police official Suzette Foo said late Tuesday that the young man had reportedly fallen from an upper floor, but that it wasn’t captured by security surveillance cameras. She didn’t rule out the possibility that he was fleeing from tear gas but noted that police fired from a far distance. She also rebutted online claims that police pushed the victim down.
“It is an upsetting incident. We will certainly investigate this case fully and do all we can to find out the truth,” Foo said.
Hundreds of black-clad demonstrators wearing Guy Fawkes masks — which are protest symbols worldwide — rallied Tuesday night in Hong Kong’s busy Tsim Sha Tsui district to mark the one-month anniversary of a government ban on facial coverings at rallies. Some protesters vandalized shops and set up road barriers as they marched along streets.
“We are out to tell the government that we will not be cowed. We will fight to the end, Hong Kong people will not give up,” a protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask said on local television. Police later fired a water cannon and quickly broke up the rally.
Earlier Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said Xi’s meeting with Lam was a “vote of confidence” in the city’s government. But pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo warned of a tougher stance by Beijing.
“The message to Hong Kong people is that we are with her, she has our backing and you better watch out,” Mo told The Associated Press.
China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported that Xi also “demanded unswerving efforts to stop and punish violent activities.” He called for more dialogue and efforts to improve people’s livelihoods in one of the world’s most expensive cities.
China’s Communist Party last week indicated it may try to find a way to enact anti-subversion laws in Hong Kong, after such measures were shelved previously due to public opposition.
The protests began in early June against an extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be sent for trials in mainland China, which many saw as infringing on Hong Kong’s judicial freedoms and other rights that were guaranteed when the former British colony return to China in 1997.
Lam abandoned the bill three months into the protests, but the movement by then had grown into calls for greater democracy and police accountability and had become one of Xi’s biggest challenges since he came to power in 2012. Lam provoked further anger by invoking emergency powers to ban masks at rallies.
More than 3,300 people have been arrested since the protests began. In a bloody incident Sunday night, a knife-wielding man believed to be a Beijing supporter slashed two people after an argument and bit off part of a local politician’s ear outside a mall. Police have arrested the assailant and two men who attacked him.
Cheung said the government plans to hold a second community dialogue after Nov. 24 district elections. Lam held her first town hall meeting on Sept. 26, where she was criticized by angry residents.
Associated Press researcher Shanshan Wang in Beijing contributed to this report.
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NYPD commissioner’s exit: ‘Right time’ after tense summer
By MICHAEL R. SISAK | Mon, November 4, 2019 08:51 EST
NEW YORK (AP) — New York City’s police commissioner, who has found himself caught at times between loyalty to his officers and demands from the public and politicians for greater police accountability, announced Monday that he is retiring.
James O’Neill said he will leave for a private sector job in December, a little more than three years after he took charge of the nation’s largest police department. Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea will succeed him, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
O’Neill led the police department’s move away from controversial “broken windows” policies, guided its response to pipe bomb blasts and a deadly truck attack, and has overseen continuing drops in crime. He called leading the NYPD “the best job in the world.”
But over the last few months, the career policeman has been increasingly under fire amid a tug-of-war between reform advocates and police unions over discipline, transparency and the level of support he’s shown for officers walking the beat.
The strongest rebuke came in August, when the city’s largest police union held a rare no-confidence vote and called for O’Neill’s resignation after he fired an officer over the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner.
The union, the Police Benevolent Association, said the firing left the NYPD “rudderless and frozen” and signaled to officers that the boss didn’t have their back.
O’Neill said Monday that the decision to fire Officer Daniel Pantaleo, five years after Garner’s dying words “I can’t breathe” became a rallying cry against alleged police brutality, weighed heavily on him, but did not factor into his retirement.
“This is the right time for me,” O’Neill said at a news conference on the leadership change.
“This job comes with a lot. It comes with a lot of pressure. This is all I have thought about for the last 38 months — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s all you think about, is keeping the people of this city safe, and it was an honor to serve.”
Shea, raised in Queens by Irish immigrants, started with the NYPD in 1991 as a patrolman in the Bronx. He rose to prominence at police headquarters as the department’s statistical guru and last year overhauled the division that handled the sexual misconduct investigation of Harvey Weinstein.
De Blasio said Shea is “one of the best-prepared incoming police commissioners this city has ever seen” and knows the department and the city “inside and out.”
Patrick Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, said he wants to work with Shea to “combat the current anti-police atmosphere and make positive changes that will improve the lives of our police officers and every New Yorker we protect.”
Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton called Monday for an immediate meeting with Shea to discuss how policing policies affect people of color.
Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the department under Shea “must prioritize transparency, accountability, and repairing relationships with the people they serve.”
Tina Luongo, of the Legal Aid Society, said in a statement that de Blasio should have embraced transparency and solicited input from city residents before picking a new police commissioner.
In Shea’s tenure as chief of detectives, the police department has expanded its database of alleged gang members — often black and Hispanic men and women — and codified expansive DNA collection practices, Luongo said. Her organization provides legal services for people who cannot afford lawyers.
“This will be more of the same, and our clients — New Yorkers from communities of color — will continue to suffer more of the same from a police department that prioritizes arrests and summonses above all else,” Luongo said.
O’Neill joined the NYPD as a transit officer in 1983 and spent more than three decades with the department before de Blasio appointed him in September 2016 as commissioner.
He got a sense of the job’s frenetic pace on the first day, when a pipe bomb exploded in Manhattan’s bustling Chelsea neighborhood, injuring 29 people.
O’Neill was quick to move the department from a focus on the broken windows theory, which viewed low-level offenses as a gateway to bigger crimes, to a neighborhood policing model designed to give officers more time to walk around and interact with people in the communities they police.
But critics contend that broken windows policing hasn’t really gone away, and that officers are finding new low-level targets — such as immigrant delivery people who get around on electric bikes — and that trust between officers and many residents remains low.
In June, O’Neill made headlines by apologizing for the violent police raid at the Stonewall Inn in 1969. Speaking on the 50th anniversary of the LGBTQ uprising that followed, O’Neill called the police department’s actions “discriminatory and oppressive.”
This year, O’Neill grieved as two police officers were killed in separate friendly fire incidents, and he declared a mental health emergency amid a rash of officer suicides.
Follow Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak
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Anti-police violence surges in the tough suburbs of Paris
By JOHN LEICESTER | Tue, November 5, 2019 07:26 EST
PARIS (AP) — A resurgence of anti-police violence has emerged in the long-troubled towns around Paris, signs that lawlessness still simmers in French urban hotspots that exploded in three weeks of rioting in 2005.
Violence on Saturday night in Chanteloup-les-Vignes and recent flare-ups in other tough neighborhoods west of Paris have not matched the intensity or destructiveness of the unrest that spread to hundreds of towns in 2005. But French authorities are alarmed because the violence appears pre-planned, with ambushes deliberately set to target police.
Police union officials suspect that rival gangs from different tough neighborhoods are competing for bragging rights in their attacks and are reveling in the media coverage they’re generating, even egging each other on in social media.
In Chanteloup-les-Vignes, hooded attackers hid in bushes, waiting to spring their trap. When police arrived, responding to calls about a fire, they pounced. Under cover of darkness, roaming youths showered officers with projectiles and powerful fireworks that filled the night skies with sparks and thundering explosions.
Unlike the riots of 2005, which were sparked by the deaths of two teenage boys electrocuted in a power substation as officers were chasing them, the latest attacks have no obvious trigger. And while rioters in 2005 seethed with anger over deep-seated perceived social and economic injustices, those attacking police now seem simply to be reveling in their violence.
The sustained violence in 2005 prompted much soul-searching about France’s failure to integrate its millions of immigrants and their French-born children living in desolate housing projects blighted by high unemployment and limited prospects. Those concerns remain unresolved, nearly 15 years later.
Maj. William Blanchet, who represents the Unite SGP police union in the Yvelines region that includes Chanteloup and other towns where police patrols have been assaulted, said the youths involved seem to be targeting officers for their own amusement.
“They draw in the police with a fire, hide themselves around that spot, and then they attack,” he said.
Police were lured to Chanteloup by calls that a trash bin had been set ablaze. Callers also reported seeing hooded youths filing bags with stones. Police union officials said about 30 youths, some armed with batons, joined the rampage. Police made two arrests.
A community center that hosted a circus school for kids was torched, leaving it a smoking, charred hulk. A video on Snapchat showed thunderous firework explosions echoing around Chanteloup, the images overlaid with the words, “The city is ours” and “anti-police here.”
“Neighborhoods are one-upping each other with ambushes,” said Charlene Joly, the Yvelines representative for the UNSA police union. “They’re becoming the fashion again.”
Earlier this fall, youths in Chanteloup smashed all the street lights around the neighborhood of austere apartment blocks hit by the violence Saturday, plunging it into darkness, according to Mayor Catherine Arenou. Police say the sabotaging of lights makes their work even harder.
“The 5,000 residents are living under the terror of a few,” said Arenou.
France’s prime minister, on an unscheduled visit Monday to see the damage for himself, suggested that the violence may have been triggered in part by “very intense” police efforts to combat the drug trafficking that underpins the underground economies of many crime-ridden neighborhoods. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the crackdown had created “tensions” in Chanteloup.
Three other French ministers visited on Tuesday morning, underscoring the attention being given to the violence that has made front-page news.
Police union officials say the youths may have been emboldened by the yellow vest economic protest movement that shook the French government in the past year, viewing repeated violent clashes between anti-government demonstrators and riot police as a cue for them to similarly wreak havoc and challenge authority.
“That opened the door,” said Blanchet. “Youths today are telling themselves, ‘OK, we can go for it … We can have some fun.'”
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At least 5 protesters killed in new round of clashes in Iraq
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA and MURTADA FARAJ | Mon, November 4, 2019 05:01 EST
BAGHDAD (AP) — Anti-government protesters crossed a major bridge in Baghdad on Monday, approaching the prime minister’s office and the headquarters of Iraq’s state-run TV, as security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas, killing at least five demonstrators and wounding dozens.
The protesters hurled rocks and set tires and dumpsters ablaze, sending clouds of black smoke into the air. Security forces flooded into the area to protect government buildings, and gunfire echoed through the streets.
Dozens of motorized rickshaws raced back and forth, ferrying the wounded to first aid stations at the main protest site in Tahrir Square.
For days, the protesters have been trying to cross the Tigris River to the heavily fortified Green Zone, where the government is headquartered. Security forces have fired tear gas and rubber bullets to push them back from barricades on the Al-Joumhouriyah and Al-Sanak Bridges, but they managed to break through on the Al-Ahrar Bridge farther north.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis have demonstrated in central Baghdad and across mostly Shiite southern Iraq since Oct. 25, calling for the overthrow of the government and sweeping political change. The protests are fueled by anger at widespread corruption, high unemployment and poor public services.
Security forces have killed more than 260 people in two waves of protests since early October.
The latest clashes came a day after Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called on the protesters to reopen streets and for life to return to normal. His office is just outside the Green Zone.
Police and hospital officials said that at least five demonstrators and a member of the security forces were killed and that 60 people were wounded. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
The clashes continued into the night, and security forces installed a concrete barrier on the Al-Ahrar Bridge to keep protesters out.
On Sunday night, Iraqi security forces shot and killed three protesters and wounded 19 in dispersing a violent demonstration outside the Iranian Consulate in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, police officials said. Seven policemen were also wounded, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
The protesters have increasingly directed their anger at Iran, which has close ties to the government, Shiite political factions and paramilitary groups.
During the violence in Karbala, dozens of Iraqi protesters set tires ablaze. They scaled the concrete barriers ringing the consulate as others lobbed firebombs over the walls. They tried to bring down the Iranian flag and replace it with the Iraqi one but could not reach it. They then placed an Iraqi flag on the wall.
The protesters chanted, “The people want the fall of the regime!” — one of the slogans of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
Iraq’s Foreign Ministry condemned the attack on the consulate, saying the security of diplomatic missions is a “red line that should not be crossed.” But protesters returned to the consulate late Monday.
On Sunday, Abdul-Mahdi called for markets, factories, schools and universities to reopen, saying the threat to oil facilities and the closing of roads had cost the country billions of dollars and contributed to price increases that affect everyone.
He differentiated between peaceful protesters who have turned the demonstrations into “popular festivals” and “outlaws” who he said had used demonstrators as “human shields” while attacking security forces.
Iran and its allies have accused the U.S. and other foreign powers of manipulating the protests to sow chaos.
Qais al-Khazali, the leader of one of Iraq’s most powerful Iranian-backed Shiite militias, said in an interview aired on Iraqi TV that the U.S., Israel, some Arab Gulf nations and local officials are working to “incite strife and chaos” in Iraq.
Al-Khazali, who heads Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, vowed to retaliate for the death of one of his group’s commanders, who was killed recently by protesters in southern Iraq.
“The Americans and the Israelis will pay a price,” he said.
The mostly Shiite militias mobilized in 2014 to battle the Islamic State group but have since grown into a powerful political faction with close ties to Iran. The militias have blamed Israel for several drone attacks in recent months that targeted their posts in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
Associated Press writer Joseph Krauss in Beirut contributed.