McDonald’s wants its latest discrimination lawsuit dismissed

The burger giant says that claims made by existing operators are “without merit,” and says it wants every franchisee to “thrive.”
Photograph: Shutterstock

McDonald’s is seeking to dismiss its latest discrimination lawsuit, arguing that a pair of existing franchisees’ claims are “without merit” and that the company cannot succeed unless its franchisees succeed.

The Chicago-based burger giant, which has taken up an aggressive defense against several discrimination lawsuits, argued in a court filing earlier this week that the allegations were “vague and conclusory,” didn’t state a claim and that “unjust enrichment” claims are “not viable.”

James and Darrell Byrd, brothers who operate four locations in the Nashville area, filed the lawsuit in late October, arguing that Black franchisees generate considerably less cashflow than their White counterparts, while saying the groups don’t receive equal opportunities.

The lawsuit was filed by the same law firm that has filed a class-action lawsuit now involving 77 former operators. The allegations in both lawsuits are roughly the same.

The lawsuits have attracted some high-powered attorneys on both sides. Daryl Parks, a civil rights attorney who has represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Corey Jones, has joined the plaintiffs’ law firm. McDonald’s, meanwhile, is represented by former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

As it did with the former franchisees’ lawsuit, McDonald’s is making an argument that the Byrds’ lawsuit makes no sense. “As a business, McDonald’s is only as successful as its franchisees,” the company said in its filing. “It wants every franchisee in its franchise system to thrive, and it provides extensive support to its franchisees to help them succeed.”

The company also argues that it “has a long history of providing opportunity to diverse communities, employees, suppliers and franchisees in the United States and across the globe.”

Even if the allegations were true, however, McDonald’s argues that they do not have merit and should be dismissed.

The allegations against McDonald’s over discrimination, which also involve company executives, have come amid a year of massive change inside the company’s headquarters following the sudden departure of former CEO Steve Easterbrook. The company has since made numerous changes in its executive ranks—including naming Reginald Miller global chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer.

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