Former MLB athlete Herb Washington used to be considered McDonald’s largest Black franchisee in the country with 27 restaurants to his name as of 2017. By the time he filed a lawsuit claiming racial discrimination in February 2021, Washington only owned 14.
He alleged the fast-food enterprise “pigeonholed him into operating restaurants in low-volume Black neighborhoods and then forced him to sell his locations after he complained.” In 2017, according to CNBC, McDonald’s told Washington that he was ineligible to continue expanding his store base, which he had hoped to do in order to offset the costs of store renovations required by the franchisor. Washington stated nothing had changed about how he ran his profitable restaurants.
Washington also alleges that McDonald’s subjected his locations to “targeted and unreasonable inspections and harsh grading” as a means to force a sale. When filing the lawsuit, he stated, “When I stood up for myself and other Black franchisees, McDonald’s began dismantling my life’s work, forcing me to sell one store after another to white operators.”
Now, it appears McDonald’s has settled the lawsuit for $33.5 million. The company stated the settlement was “no more than what we deem a fair price for the value of the restaurants.” They will be taking ownership of 13 out of Washington’s 14 stores.
In a statement, the corporation said, “The court did not find that the company violated any laws. Discrimination has no place at McDonald’s. While we were confident in the strength of our case, this resolution aligns with McDonald’s values and enables us to continue focusing on our commitments to the communities that we serve.”
This settlement comes after McDonald’s settled a similar lawsuit by two other Black franchisees, James and Darrell Byrd. The brothers claimed the fast-food chain gave preferential treatment to white franchisees. Upon agreeing to purchase four of their restaurants for $6.5 million, the Byrd brothers dropped their suit.
McDonald’s still has an outstanding lawsuit that was filed on behalf of 77 former Black franchisees alleging racial discrimination. There’s no word on how soon that will be settled out of court.