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McDonald’s franchisee Herb Washington suing burger giant for alleged racial discrimination

“Herb Washington, a former standout sprinter at Michigan State University and a player on the Oakland A’s who eventually operated 27 McDonald’s restaurants, is suing the fast-food chain for alleged racial discrimination.

According to law firm Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway, Washington ran 27 McDonald’s restaurants in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio during his 40 years with the company but was forced by the Chicago-based burger giant (NYSE: MCD) to sell some of his sites to white franchisees.

“What is particularly disturbing here is that McDonald’s stores that have been built up by Black owners in challenging neighborhoods are being stripped away from those Black owners and handed to white owners … all as part of a cynical exercise in manipulating the restaurant chain’s profitability numbers to give the phony appearance of parity amongst Black and white franchise owners,” according to a statement from the law firm, which filed the lawsuit on Washington’s behalf in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio on Tuesday.

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

Washington was a world-class sprinter at Michigan State in the early 1970s and subsequently played for the Oakland A’s in 1974 and 1975. He then proceeded to open his McDonald’s franchises.

McDonald’s didn’t respond to a request for comment on Washington’s lawsuit.

The lawsuit follows two other lawsuits filed by Black McDonald’s franchise owners late last year.

In September, McDonald’s was sued by 52 former Black franchisees who contend the company denied them the same opportunities afforded White-owned franchisees. The lawsuit alleges that the Chicago-based hamburger giant engaged in “blatant and implicit racial discrimination,” according to the ex-franchisees’ lawyer.

In October, McDonald’s was sued by a pair of brothers and Tennessee franchisees who contend there’s high cash-flow disparity between white and Black-owned franchises. In response to that lawsuit, McDonald’s said, “We will defend against this lawsuit while we move forward with our priorities to foster equitable opportunity for franchisees, suppliers and employees.””

Chicago Business Journal | Ben Miller | February 16, 2021


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