A former professional baseball player who owns a string of McDonald’s restaurants is suing the fast food giant for racial discrimination.
A civil rights lawsuit filed in federal court by one-time sprinting star Herbert Washington, who played for the Oakland Athletics in the mid-1970s, claims the company has shown more favourable treatment to white franchise holders – and prevented him from buying outlets in more affluent communities.
The 69-year-old argues the firm’s discriminatory practices has led to a $700,000 (£505,000) sales gap between black-owned franchises and those held by white people.
McDonald’s has refuted the accusations, and blames Mr Washington’s situation on his “years of mismanagement”.
According to the lawsuit, franchises in poorer area cost more to operate, have higher employee turnover and are not as profitable.
The court documents said: “By relegating black owners to the oldest stores in the toughest neighbourhoods, McDonald’s ensured that black franchisees would never achieve the levels of success that white franchisees could expect.
“Black franchisees must spend more to operate their stores while white franchisees get to realise the full benefit of their labours.”
It follows similar claims by more than 50 former black McDonald’s franchise owners in a lawsuit filed against the company last September, saying they were forced to sell about 200 stores in the last decade.
Mr Washington said he had been fighting a two-tiered system since he bought his first franchise in Rochester, New York, 40 years ago.
At one point he owned 27 restaurants but now only has 14 – 12 in Ohio and two in Pennsylvania.
He blames his difficulties with the company for challenging it on behalf of other black McDonald’s owners.
Mr Washington said: “McDonald’s has targeted me for extinction. The arches are in full-scale retaliation mode against me.”
He added: “How it looks is that, quite simply in many cases, white owner-operators have higher volume restaurants than blacks.
“They are given opportunities for the higher volume restaurants, which puts them in a position to be more successful.
“Their cost to running those restaurants is a lot cheaper.
“As an example, I have a restaurant I have to have security in, okay? My counterpart has a restaurant on the other side of town that does not have to have security in it.”
Denying the allegations, McDonald’s said Mr Washington was “facing business challenges” and the company had “invested significantly in his organisation” while offering him “multiple opportunities over several years to address these issues”.
The firm’s statement added: “This situation is the result of years of mismanagement by Mr Washington, whose organisation has failed to meet many of our standards on people, operations, guest satisfaction and reinvestment.”
The former Michigan State track star holds a unique place in baseball history, having played 105 games for the Oakland Athletics in 1974-75, but never batted or got on the field with a glove, being used solely as a runner.
Mr Washington earned a championship ring after getting into three World Series games for the Athletics in their win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974.
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