A federal court judge in California on Tuesday dismissed Byron Allen’s lawsuit against McDonald’s, saying he did not provide sufficient facts to back their claims that the burger giant discriminated against the owner of The Weather Channel and other networks.
But the judge will give Allen’s Entertainment Studios Networks the ability to amend its complaint and continue its legal fight.
Allen sued McDonald’s for discrimination in May, saying that the burger giant discriminated against African American-owned media, including his company, in its media buying. The lawsuit argued that McDonald’s spent only a fraction of its ad spending on Black-owned media and pigeonholed Allen’s company specifically as targeting a Black audience.
Loretta Lynch, an attorney for McDonald’s, said in a statement that, should Allen’s company come back with new claims, “we will be ready to assess the new claims and move again as we believe there is no evidence supporting this meritless case.”
The lawsuit was among many discrimination complaints filed against the burger giant over the past 18 months. Current and former franchisees have sued the company, as have former employees and executives. Together they paint a picture of a company that has gone backwards on diversity under former CEO Steve Easterbrook and his successor, Chris Kempczinski.
Allen has been particularly vocal. Last month, he called for Kempczinski to be fired in a letter to the company’s board over a text message sent to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot appearing to lay some blame to the parents following the separate shooting deaths of two kids, one of whom was shot while in a McDonald’s drive-thru.
McDonald’s has been pushing in recent months to overcome many of these complaints. It is basing some executives’ bonuses based on the company’s ability to meet diversity goals and has vowed to spend more with more diverse-owned media and other vendors. It is also working with some of its vendors on diversity issues.
For now, however, the judge has dismissed Allen’s discrimination claims, saying that “the court is skeptical that plaintiffs have pleaded enough facts” to support various elements in the case. For instance, the lawsuit argues that Entertainment Studios Networks tried “many times over the years” to contract with McDonald’s for advertising.
But, the judge said, the only supporting allegation was that marketing representatives for Allen’s Weather Group pitched the Weather Channel to McDonald’s ad agency. “These allegations appear to be insufficient to establish an attempt to create a contractual relationship.”
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