Judge dismisses McDonald's bias lawsuit by Black franchisees

Judge dismisses McDonald's bias lawsuit by Black franchisees
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A judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against McDonald’s filed by Black franchisees accusing the fast food chain of racial discrimination for pushing the owners to work at underperforming stores.

James and Darrell Byrd, brothers who own a combined four McDonald’s locations in Tennessee, filed a lawsuit against the Chicago-based company in October, accusing it of steering Black franchisees to neighborhoods that have high overheads costs - including increased security, insurance and employee turnover - and bring in below-average sales.

They also claimed that McDonald’s would not approve Black franchisee’s ''reasonable requests for financial assistance and/or restructuring plan to account for the substandard locations it steers them to,” according to the lawsuit.


Reuters reported that U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber determined that the plaintiffs did not prove that McDonald’s executives or managers treated Black franchise owners differently from non-Black owners, or when this unfair treatment might have happened.

“The court does not mean to imply that McDonald’s operations over the years have not been tainted by the brush of racism,” Leinenweber said in the ruling, according to Bloomberg.

“The fact that the first African-American franchisees didn’t appear until 15 years after the franchise system was established in 1955 provides the opposite inference. However, historical discrimination cannot be the base for a Section 1981 discrimination suit filed in 2020,” he added.

Leinenweber, according to Bloomberg, was making reference to part of a federal law that allows individuals to file lawsuits for racial discrimination they face when making and enforcing contracts.

While Leinenweber dismissed their claims, he said the plaintiffs can file an amended complaint within the 30 days that addresses the inadequacies he mentioned, according to Bloomberg.

James Ferraro, a lawyer for the Byrd brothers, said the plaintiffs plan to file an amended complaint, Bloomberg reported.


The Hill reached out to McDonald’s for comment.

A Black McDonald’s franchise owner in Ohio filed a separate lawsuit against the company in February, accusing the chain of pigeon-holing him into running low-volume stores in minority communities.

In May, two Black-owned media companies filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s, claiming that the the fast food giant discriminated against Black-owned media companies in its allocation of advertising spending.