Respect Equality

Black McDonald’s owner sues fast-food goliath over racial discrimination

Story at a glance

  • A Black McDonald’s franchisee is suing the company over allegations of racism.
  • The company denies wrongdoing, blaming the franchisee’s situation on “years of mismanagement.”
  • Dozens of Black franchisees have made similar complaints of systemic racism against McDonald’s.

Former MLB player and McDonald’s franchisee Herbert L. Washington has filed a lawsuit against the fast-food company alleging racial discrimination and retaliation as his stores suffered.   


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“McDonald’s has targeted me for extinction,” Washington said in a press conference, according to local news outlets. “The arches are in full-scale retaliation mode against me.”

A franchisee for four decades, the lawsuit accuses McDonald’s of steering Washington into stores “in distressed, predominantly Black neighborhoods, which—as McDonald’s well knew— yield considerably less profit than stores in more affluent communities.” 

“When Mr. Washington protested the discriminatory treatment he was enduring—telling McDonald’s ‘I am not a house negro and will not be treated like one’—McDonald’s intensified its campaign to drive him from its system in retaliation for his opposition to the discrimination,” said the lawsuit. 


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“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,” McDonald’s said in a statement denying Washington’s allegations. The company said it has “invested significantly in his organization“ and offered Washington “multiple opportunities over several years to address these issues.”

This isn’t the first time the fast-food goliath has been accused of discriminatory practices. Black franchisees reported making hundreds of thousands of dollars less per year than the average franchisee, according to a report by Business Insider in 2019, as the company moved towards fewer franchisees owning more locations. Last fall, dozens of plaintiffs joined a federal lawsuit against the fast-food chain claiming the company engaged in systemic discrimination.

“I will no longer give up my seat on the bus,” Washington told reporters, invoking civil rights activist Rosa Parks.


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