Dunkin' Donuts Rep Allegedly Tells Franchisee She Isn't 'Servile Enough,' And She Sues

A Dunkin' Donuts franchisee has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the chain, alleging that parent company Dunkin' Brands is biased against "Asian-Indian American women of color," the New York Post reports.

Priti Shetty, a woman of Indian descent who owned two Dunkin' Donuts stores in New Jersey, claims a Dunkin' Brands representative, Wayne Miller, told her she wasn't "servile enough" as an Indian woman.

He also forced her to keep her stores open 24 hours, despite her concerns about crime and the store's inability to generate adequate revenue during off-hours, according to her lawsuit, filed in a New Jersey state court last week.

According to the Post, Shetty (pictured at left) claims that while many women of Indian descent work at Dunkin', none manage multiple stores in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut or Rhode Island.

Shetty's lawyer, Jerry Marks of Marks & Klein LLP, told the newspaper that Dunkin' denied Shetty's attempts to open a third store, saying the location wasn't suitably situated for a drive-thru. Nonetheless, the suit claims, a male franchisee was later able to open a store at the same spot without a drive-thru window. Shetty told AOL Jobs that she sold her stores in 2010.

UPDATE: In statement emailed Wednesday to AOL Jobs, Dunkin' Group spokeswoman Karen Raskopf declined to comment on Shetty's case but said the company "works to have good relationships" with a "diverse base of franchisees." She said that the bulk of new Dunkin' Donut stores are opened by existing owners, "which we believe is a testimony to their satisfaction with that relationship."

A History Of Legal Wrangles

Shetty isn't the first Dunkin' franchisee to allege that the Canton, Mass.-based company discriminates against franchisees of Indian descent.

In 2007, Mahendra and Nita Patel, husband-and-wife operators of four Orange County, N.Y., Dunkin' outlets, counter-sued the chain after the company alleged that the couple violated franchise agreements, and labor and tax laws.

The Patels, first-generation Americans of Indian descent, alleged in their suit that the company unfairly terminates minority franchisees or forces them to sell their stores at less than fair market value to white, multi-unit operators, according to QSRMagazine.com.

Dunkin' has a lengthy history of legal wrangling with its owner-operators. BusinessWeek reported in 2009 that Dunkin' was involved in about 350 lawsuits with its franchisees, noting that the company has been accused of aggressively targeting shop owners in an effort to terminate franchise agreements and in the process collect hefty fees and penalties for alleged contract violations.

The company nonetheless has its sights set on expansion and plans to open more than 300 news stores in the Asia-Pacific region -- including India.

Earlier this month, Dunkin' opened a flagship store in New Delhi, the Indian capital. It's just the first of 80 to 100 planned stores under an agreement between Dunkin' and New Delhi-based Jubilant FoodWorks, which also operates Domino's Pizza outlets.

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