On Friday (October 23), McDonald’s Corp urged a U.S. judge to dismiss a lawsuit by dozens of Black former franchise owners who have accused the fast food company of racial discrimination.
The ex-franchisees claim McDonald’s sold them underperforming stores and didn’t attempt to help them succeed.
But lawyers for the fast food chain in court papers filed Friday in a Chicago federal court claim its franchise agreements made clear the obligations and risks of owning franchises, Reuters reports.
More than 50 plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed on September 1 in Chicago seek compensation of $4 million to $5 million per store.
The lawsuit alleges that McDonald’s steered Black franchisees to stores in inner-city neighborhoods with lower sales volumes and higher security and insurance costs, the report notes. Additionally, the complaint charges that the chain gave them misleading financial information, and or pushed them to decide quickly when a store became available.The plaintiffs owned approximately 200 stores and say they were forced to sell the low-performing franchises.
James Ferraro, the attorney representing the plaintiffs said in a statement, “Revenue is determined by one thing and one thing only: location. It’s a Big Mac. They’re the same everywhere.”
The lawsuit also says McDonald's “knew or should have known that these differential revenue and operating costs of Black-operated franchises as compared to White-operated franchises are not random or due to poor management,” noting that the differences were the result of systemic racism in the McDonald's franchise system.
McDonald’s, on the other hand, said many of the plaintiffs’ claims are too old, and that there’s no proof it made or broke promises that would support their claims of longstanding and companywide discrimination.
“On its face, this claim is illogical as it suggests the company somehow has an interest in undermining its franchisees and seeing them fail,” McDonald’s said in a statement according to Reuters. “Success is promised to no one, and plaintiffs’ struggles - while regrettable - are simply not a basis for a claim against McDonald’s.”
This isn’t the only racial discrimination suit currently standing against McDonald’s.
On October 13, three employees who worked at a Rock Island, Illinois location filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Central District of Illinois. The plaintiffs, Selynda Middlebrook, Stephanie Stevens, and Luther Gray, who is acting on behalf of his 17-year-old daughter, alleges that the location’s general manager called Black workers and customers “ghetto.”
They also claim they were given shorter hours while other employees stereotyped them as “lazy” or “smelly,” according to the complaint. In late July, Middlebrook claims she was called a “waste of space” and that her hours were cut earlier in the year.
Additionally, two Black executives sued McDonald's in January over “cruel” retaliation and in July, three former workers in Florida sued the company over discrimination.