A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit accusing McDonald’s of racial discrimination for steering Black franchise owners to underperforming stores.
In his decision, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber said the plaintiffs failed to show McDonald’s executives or managers treated Black store owners differently from non-Black owners. Leinenweber added the plaintiffs also failed to show when the discrimination occurred.
“The court does not mean to imply that McDonald’s operations over the years have not been tainted by the brush of racism.” Still, historical discrimination did not justify the lawsuit, Leinenweber wrote, according to CNBC.
Two brothers, James and Darrell Byrd, who own four McDonald’s restaurants in Tennessee, accused the company of placing Black franchisees in economically undesirable inner-city locations with high security and insurance costs and below-average sales. The Byrd brothers also accused the fast-food giant of denying Black owners the same opportunities for growth and financial assistance it offered white owners.
Jim Ferraro, the lawyer for the Byrd brothers, has a similar lawsuit pending in Chicago on behalf of Black former franchisees. The two lawsuits sought damages that together could reach $4 billion.
Although Leinenweber dismissed their claim for good, the judge did say the Byrd brothers could amend the complaint. Ferraro said the brothers would amend the suit, according to Reuters.
McDonald’s has supported Black causes and actions, especially in the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer. Last fall, the fast-food chain named Black female Tiffany Boyd as its chief people officer. McDonald’s has also recently teamed with actress La La Anthony and NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace to provide $500,000 in scholarships and a mentor program for college students.
Like many fast-food chains, McDonald’s is currently dealing with a national worker shortage and has pledged to raise its wages to $13 per hour. However, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski confirmed it’s testing an automated, voice-recognition-based drive-thru ordering system at 10 of its Chicago locations, which they plan to expand eventually.