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Dunkin' Donuts accused of employment discrimination

An African American couple has joined a lawsuit targeting Dunkin' Donuts for employment discrimination, accusing the company of lying to them and encouraging them to establish a franchise in a minority area rather than a more lucrative region. The couple claims the company provided them with fraudulent revenue projections and reports that wrongly claimed there were no available locations in a profitable area, steering them toward an economically undesirable area in Maryland known for housing a high number of minorities.

The couple has requested $750,000 in damages, which would compensate them for the employment discrimination they reportedly suffered as well as cover the losses they incurred from their failing business, which ultimately lead them to declare bankruptcy.

The lawsuit also demands that Dunkin' Donuts implement new policies that more effectively deter discrimination. The couple claimed that only about 50 of the company's 7,000 franchisees are African American and that many of them are forced to start their businesses in less lucrative areas.

The couple joined an existing lawsuit filed by Indian American franchisee in May of 2012, who claimed she was discriminated against when the company refused to allow her to regain control of her franchise when it folded after she sold it another franchisee. Additionally, she said Dunkin' Donuts officials refused to allow her to open a third store, later granting the location to a white male franchisee. She also accused a district manager working with the company of repeatedly harassing her based on ethnic background.

A representative for Dunkin' Donuts denied the claims against the company. "Our franchisee diversity and our franchisee relationships are a source of pride for us and a strength within our system," she explained.

New or existing businesses often benefit from ongoing training for their key management and staff members. Such training seminars can review what is considered appropriate and inappropriate behavior in the workplace or simply provide the necessary understanding of what types of actions could be considered discriminatory. Raising employee awareness can prevent costly employment litigation for a company down the road.

Source: Philly.com, "Franchisees claim bias in Dunkin' Donuts suit," Samantha Henry, Aug. 22, 2012

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