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Black business owner, Michigan track legend sues McDonald’s alleging discrimination

“FLINT, MI — A Flint native and owner of 14 McDonald’s franchises in Ohio is suing the world’s largest franchisor, alleging it has shown more favorable treatment to white owners and denied him the opportunity to buy restaurants in more affluent communities.

Herbert Washington filed a civil rights lawsuit Tuesday, Feb. 16 in the Northern District Court of Ohio. The suit alleges racial discrimination and retaliation against Washington.

The lawsuit states Black owners average around $700,000 less in annual sales per McDonald’s store than White owners.

“In his four decades in the McDonald’s system, Mr. Washington has suffered deplorable treatment as compared with White franchisees,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit alleges McDonald’s purposefully steered Washington into stores in distressed, predominantly Black neighborhoods, which “yielded considerably less profit” than stores in more affluent communities.

“When Mr. Washington spoke up for himself and other Black franchisees, McDonald’s told him to sit down and be quiet,” the lawsuit reads. “McDonald’s then discriminated further against Mr. Washington for daring to stand up for himself and to challenge McDonald’s racial discrimination.”

The lawsuit states that McDonald’s had acknowledged discriminatory policies decades ago and promised to ensure parity for its Black franchisees. However, the lawsuit further states the discriminatory policies did not cease.

The profit gap between white and Black franchisees has actually grown and Black franchise ownership has “plummeted,” the lawsuit alleges. The number of Black franchise owners has fallen from 377 in 1998 to 186 today, while the total number of stores has more than doubled to 40,000, the lawsuit states.

McDonald’s issued a statement on Tuesday denying Washington’s assertions, the Associated Press reported.

The company said Washington is “facing business challenges” for which the company has “invested significantly in his organization” while offering him “multiple opportunities over several years to address these issues.”

“This situation is the result of years of mismanagement by Mr. Washington, whose organization has failed to meet many of our standards on people, operations, guest satisfaction and reinvestment,” the statement said, according to the AP.

More than 50 former Black McDonald’s franchise owners made similar claims in a lawsuit filed against the company in September.

Washington, 68, is a Flint Central High School graduate and still holds the title of “Michigan’s fastest runner.”

He was a world-class sprinter in high school and set Michigan’s 100-yard dash record of 9.4 seconds twice in 1968, a mark that has never been broken, only tied.

After graduating from Flint Central High, Washington accepted a scholarship to Michigan State University where he was a four-time All-American who won an NCAA Championship, seven Big Ten titles and set world records in the 50- and 60-yard dashes.

He also played for the Oakland Athletics after college, solely used as a pinch runner with the team during a two-year Major League Baseball career.”

mlive | Winter Keefer | February 16, 2021


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