Two McDonald's Corp. senior franchising executives are suing the fast-food company for alleged intentional racial discrimination against African Americans.
In the complaint, plaintiffs Victoria Guster-Hines and Domineca Neal said McDonald's "became overtly hostile to African Americans in both words and deeds" under the leadership of former President and CEO Steven Easterbrook and Christopher Kempczinski, who was president of McDonald's USA at the time and is now the CEO of the company.
Easterbrook was fired in November 2019 for having a "consensual relationship" with an employee.
According to court documents, Easterbrook said at a meeting of the National Black McDonald's Operators' Association, or NBMOA, in 2016, and on other occasions, that "diversity" at the company meant "women" and not persons of color. Kempczinski allegedly highlighted the exclusion when, at a meeting set up by African American company executives to discuss the lack of African American representation in upper management, he said the "numbers [of African Americans] don't matter."
Guster-Hines and Neal also accused Easterbrook and Kempczinski of reducing marketing efforts to attract African American consumers, which allegedly led to fewer black customers. In addition, they said the company under Easterbrook and Kempczinski's leadership knew that some of its initiatives, such as the "Big Bolder Vision 2020" that requires franchisees to make expensive capital expenditures, would put disproportionate financial stress on African American franchisees, "but McDonald's did it anyway."
The plaintiffs said they were subjected to humiliation and unlawful retaliation for speaking out on the matter. They are seeking actual and compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages against the accused, and the recovery of costs and legal fees.
In a statement, McDonald's said that while it disagrees with the characterizations in the lawsuit, it is reviewing it and will respond accordingly.
"At McDonald’s, our actions are rooted in our belief that a diverse, vibrant, inclusive and respectful company makes us stronger. In the U.S., in particular, almost half of our Corporate Officers are people of color — an increase of nearly 10 percent from 2013 — and all 10 of the U.S. Field Vice Presidents are people of color," the company added.
The fast-food chain is also facing legal action over alleged sexual harassment practices at one of its Michigan stores and for allegedly failing to resolve workplace violence in Chicago.