Black man who owns 14 McDonald’s restaurants sues fast food giant for racial discrimination

Francis Akhalbey February 18, 2021
Herb Washington is accusing the American fast food giant of racial discrimination -- Photo Credit: AP / Ron Schwane.

A McDonald’s owner, who was once the fast food giant’s largest Black franchise operator in the United States, has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the company.

Herb Washington, who is also a retired baseball player, alleges the popular fast-food company does not afford its Black owners the same opportunities granted to their White counterparts, citing a grievance on how Black owners are always pushed to operate franchise stores in “distressed, predominantly black” areas, BBC reported.

Speaking at a press conference to announce the lawsuit, Washington, who currently owns 14 McDonald’s stores, said the fast food chain took action against him after raising his grievances and repeatedly thwarted his growth. Washington cited instances including the company preventing him from purchasing a White franchise owner’s stores and not providing him with financial assistance packages his White counterparts received.

“McDonald’s has targeted me for extinction. The arches are in full-scale retaliation mode against me,” he said, adding that the company had forced him to sell some of his stores in order to receive contract extensions for others. He currently owns 14 franchise stores.

Per the lawsuit, Washington said the situation exacerbated when the company’s former head, Steve Easterbrook, assumed office in 2015, BBC reported. Under Easterbrook, the lawsuit alleges the company introduced policies that were “designed to force black franchisees out of the McDonald’s system.”

The lawsuit cited a decline in the number of Black-owned McDonald’s stores, claiming it had reduced to 186 from 377 since 1998. The suit also alleges White-owned franchises averagely make $700,000 more in annual sales as compared to Black-owned stores.

“These numbers are not a coincidence; they are the result of McDonald’s intentionally racist policies and practices toward black franchisees,” the lawsuit states.

Responding to the lawsuit in a statement, McDonald’s accused Washington of being the cause of his own business woes, claiming it was due to his own “mismanagement.”

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

“His restaurants have a public record of these issues, including past health and sanitation concerns, and some of the highest volumes of customer complaints in the country.”

During the press conference, however, Washington denied the company’s claim of mismanagement, saying they wouldn’t have allowed him to operate for 40 years if he was always “bringing down the brand,” BBC reported.

“When I stood up for myself and other black franchisees, McDonald’s began to dismantle my life’s work,” Washington said. “I didn’t quit on McDonald’s. McDonald’s quit on me.”

This is not the first time the company has been accused of discrimination. Last year, over 50 former Black franchise owners reportedly filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s alleging the company pushed them to franchise stores in unfavorable locations.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: February 18, 2021


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