52 Black former McDonald’s franchisees are suing the fast-food chain, alleging decades of discrimination.
According to Business Insider, a complaint was filed on Tuesday in the US District Court for the Northern District Court of Illinois seeking more than $1 billion in damages.
In the complaint, the franchisees allege “systemic and covert racial discrimination,” adding that it “systemically steered” Black franchisees to set up shop in older stores in predominantly Black neighborhoods, locations that historically have higher insurance and security loss but that take in less revenue.
One franchisee referred to opening a McDonald’s location as a Black franchisee as a “financial suicide mission” in the complaint, which also goes on to accuse the chain of forcing out Black franchisees over the last 20 years.
But McDonald’s denies forcing out Black franchisees, saying that the number has remained relatively unchanged.
“My priority has always been to seek the truth,” McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said in a message to employees. “When allegations such as these occur, I wan them investigated thoroughly and objectively.”
James L. Ferraro, the attorney for the franchisees, disagrees. He told Business Insider that McDonald’s is “more concerned about PR than they are about action, about doing the right thing.”
“They’re just purely about protecting their image,” Ferraro says.
Ferraro says McDonald’s has been on a “PR campaign” since he alerted them in early June that the filing was coming, recently “emphasizing the importance of values and diversity,” donating to National Urban League and the NAACP, and mourning the deaths of Black people killed by police in their advertising.