A Black owner of 14 McDonald’s franchises is claiming the fast food giant shows more favorable treatment to white owners and denied him the opportunity to buy restaurants in more affluent communities.
According to the Associated Press, Herbert Washington filed a civil rights lawsuit on Tuesday (February 18) in federal court in Youngstown, Ohio. The former Michigan State University track star, who played for parts of two seasons with the Oakland Athletics during the mid-1970s, said the company’s discriminatory practices have led to a $700,000 sales gap between Black-owned franchises and those owned by white people.
The lawsuit states that franchises in low-income neighborhoods cost more to operate, have higher employee turnover and are not as profitable.
“By relegating Black owners to the oldest stores in the toughest neighborhoods, McDonald’s ensured that Black franchisees would never achieve the levels of success that White franchisees could expect,” the lawsuit reads. “Black franchisees must spend more to operate their stores while White franchisees get to realize the full benefit of their labors.”
This is just the latest lawsuit alleging discrimination by McDonald’s. In 2020, Black McDonald’s workers reportedly sued the fast-food chain over racial discrimination.
In October, employees who worked at a Rock Island, Illinois location filed a lawsuit in the U.S. 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 claimed she was called a “waste of space” and that her hours were cut earlier in the year.
Stevens, Middlebrook's aunt, says she was fired on the spot after she told the general manager that she should not speak about employees in such a "discriminatory and demeaning manner."
In response to the suit, Trina Gendron, the McDonald's franchisee who owns the location, issued a statement claiming she’ll be investigating what happened.
"I am deeply committed to running a values-led organization, and discrimination, harassment or retaliation of any kind are not tolerated in my restaurants," she said. "I take these allegations seriously and am currently reviewing the complaint and investigating these allegations.”
The latest suit in Youngstown and October filing in Rock Island are at least the fourth and fifth racial discrimination lawsuit that has been filed against McDonald’s within the past 13 months. Two Black executives sued McDonald's in January over “cruel” retaliation. In July, three former workers in Florida sued the company over discrimination, and later in July, 52 Black former franchisees sued McDonald’s, claiming they were not being given the same opportunities as white franchisees.
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