A federal court judge on Friday denied a bid by McDonald’s to dismiss a lawsuit from Byron Allen, giving new life to the Weather Channel owner’s months-long effort to prove the company discriminates in its media buying decisions.
U.S. District Judge Fernando Olguin refused to dismiss Allen’s lawsuit, saying McDonald’s “improperly” referenced materials outside the proceedings.
McDonald’s has until Thursday to respond to Allen’s complaint or refile its motion to dismiss.
“We look forward to presenting our enormous evidence in court, which will prove the systemic racism at McDonald’s,” Allen said in a statement. “And I firmly believe the board at McDonald’s should fire CEO Chris Kempczinski immediately.”
McDonald’s, however, said the court’s order was “procedural and does not advance the case any further.” The company said it intends to refile its motion to dismiss and called Allen’s claims “meritless.” The company also pointed out that Allen has amended his complaint three times.
The case was initially dismissed in December. McDonald’s said Allen has thus far failed to correct problems in the lawsuit that led to the initial dismissal.
“This case is about revenue not race,” McDonald’s said. “And plaintiffs’ groundless allegations ignore McDonald’s legitimate business reasons for not investing more on their channels and the company’s collaboration with diverse-owned partners.”
Allen sued McDonald’s for discrimination in May, arguing that the burger giant pigeonholed his company as being targeted only at a Black audience and saying that companies targeting such audiences are paid at lower rates.
The lawsuit also argues that McDonald’s spends only a fraction of its ad budget on Black-owned media companies.
Allen has continued to put pressure on the burger giant, taking out ads in major newspapers and calling for the ouster of Kempczinski—particularly after the CEO’s controversial texts to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot appearing to put some blame for a pair of shootings of children in the city on the kids’ parents.
McDonald’s, for its part, has taken steps to improve its record in diversity in hiring and in recruiting of franchisees. It has also vowed to double spending with diverse-owned media by 2024—and specifically would more than double its spending with Black-owned media companies.
Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.