All Reggie and Amy Pretto wanted was the opportunity to run their own Dunkin' Donuts franchise and be in business for themselves. Instead, the African-American couple claims in a new lawsuit, they were purposely "steered" to less desirable, economically challenged locations, hundreds of miles from their suburban New York City home -- because of their race.
In a complaint filed Monday in New Jersey state court, the Prettos accuse corporate parent Dunkin' Brands of lying and deceiving them into believing that there were no franchise opportunities in New York state or New Jersey, near their Westchester County home, and were instead "steered" to less favorable areas in Maryland, which ultimately failed, the New York Post reports.
And the move cost them dearly, the couple says. The failed Maryland stores cost the Prettos $750,000, and their home, which they sold in 2004 to finance the franchise purchase.
In the lawsuit, the Prettos allege that as they were being persuaded to invest in the Maryland stores, Dunkin' gave white investors the opportunity of multi-unit franchise agreements in the more lucrative New York/New Jersey region.
Reggie Pretto, a Dunkin' employee before he became a franchisee, told the Post that he walked into the business with eyes wide open but was still stunned by the company's actions.
The suit also charges that Dunkin' has history of discriminating against minority franchisees, noting that Dunkin' has no units in New York, Connecticut or Rhode Island owned by African-Americans, despite the company having a significant presence there. The complaint also alleges that Dunkin' gives white franchise developers prime locations for doughnut shops, while minorities are left with "economically disadvantaged or marginal areas."
Of the nearly 7,000 stores that Dunkin' has nationwide, just 50 shops are owned by African-Americans -- and those establishments are primarily situated in poorer areas. The suit charges Dunkin' Donuts with "systematic racial discrimination," particularly against Indian women of color and African Americans.
Through a spokeswoman, Dunkin' Donuts declined an opportunity to respond, saying, "We are unable to comment due to pending litigation."
Another former franchisee, Priti Shetty, is also listed as plaintiff in the lawsuit. As AOL Jobs reported in May, Shetty alleges that Dunkin' Brands is biased against "Asian-Indian American women of color."
Shetty, who owned two Dunkin' Donuts stores in New Jersey, alleges that a Dunkin' Brands manager, Wayne Miller, forced her to keep her stores open 24 hours a day, despite concerns that Shetty had about safety and profitability, and denied her the ability to open a third store.
Further, she claims, Miller told her that she wasn't "servile enough" as an Indian woman and regularly made derogatory remarks, telling Shetty, for example: "This business is not for [you]."
The Prettos and Shetty aren't the first Dunkin' franchisees to allege that the Canton, Mass.-based company discriminates against franchisees of color.
In 2007, Mahendra and Nita Patel, husband-and-wife operators of four Orange County, N.Y., Dunkin' outlets, countersued 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.
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.
Recent Discrimination Cases
Franchisees Accuse Dunkin' Donuts Of 'Systematic Racial Discrimination'
Walmart discriminated against female employees in its 451 Texas stores, according to a class action lawsuit filed in October, four months after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a nationwide class action suit against the world's largest retailer. The court had said all of the store's 1.5 million female employees were too diverse to constitute a class. The new lawsuit makes a more modest claim to class status: over 45,000 former and current employees of Walmart.
The lawsuit was filed by Stephanie Odie on behalf of all women similarly affected by what she calls "a pattern or practice of discrimination in management track promotions." The lawsuit charges that these Walmart employees were given no information about how to enter management or the management trainee program required for advancement to upper-level positions. Managers allegedly did not post opportunities, conduct open applications procedures, or specify what the qualifications or requirements were.
America is like a quilt, he famously said, where many patches -- the white, the Hispanic and the gay, among the rest -- are woven and held together by a common thread. When Jesse Jackson alluded to the quilt metaphor during his address to the 1984 Democratic National Convention, he probably didn't expect 27 years later to be taken to court over sexual harassment charges filed against him by one of his gay staffers.
Tommy R. Bennett worked for the activist's political action committee, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, from July 2007 until Dec. 23, 2009. Over that time, Bennett worked as the national director of community affairs, while also subbing in as the de facto national field director and Jackson's travel assistant.
When New York became the latest state to allow same-sex marriage last summer, thousands rejoiced and thousands did not. But a few town clerks were suddenly faced with an inescapable moral and legal dilemma: They were opposed to gay marriage, but their job now required that they authorize them.
This was the predicament facing Rose Marie Belforti in Ledyard, a small town southwest of Auburn. She is the town clerk, one of six elected officials in the local government. She's a religious Christian, and if you call up her dairy farm, the Finger Lakes Dexter Creamery on Black Rock Road, her voice mail tells you "to have a blessed day."
Last month, Belforti sent a letter to the town board, explaining that she would not be signing marriage licenses for same-sex couples. She suggested that those jobs be assigned to a deputy. There is no deputy clerk in Ledyand, but it probably didn't seem so urgent. Fewer than 10 couples a year on average come in to be married.
The drivers, all of whom are Somali Muslims, saw the company's decision as a failure to appreciate the customs of the Islamic faith.
"We feel like we're being punished for what we believe in," Ileys Omar, one of the former Hertz employees, told local TV news outlet KOMO. "It's five minutes. It's not as big [of a] deal as the company's making it."
The Occupy Wall Street camp at Zucotti Park resembled the early kibbutzim of Israel. It was a self-sustaining scrappy community, with members eating, sleeping, and living collectively, braced against harsh climes, while dreaming up and playing at a better way to live. But in another sense, it wasn't like them at all, in the sense that few kibbutniks ever harbored unpleasant feelings toward Zionist Jews -- that's who they were.
Last autumn a Los Angeles school district fired a substitute teacher for anti-Semitic remarks she made at a recent Occupy Wall Street offshoot in Los Angeles. In an interview with Reason.tv, Patricia McAllister (pictured above) said, "I think that the Zionist Jews who are running these big banks and our Federal Reserve, which is not run by the federal government, they need to be run out of this country."
Former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway has been named in a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination at one of his auto dealerships in Southern California.
The suit, filed this month by former sales manager Timothy Sandquist, accuses the general manager of Elway's Manhattan Beach Toyota outlet of racial discrimination, harassment and maintaining a hostile work environment toward minorities, the Los Angeles Times reports.
In the suit, Sandquist, who is black, also alleges that he was paid less than his white peers and was repeatedly passed over for promotions and raises. He worked at the dealership for 11 years before resigning last year.
Pepsi Beverages Co. said it would pay $3.1 million to settle federal charges of race discrimination for using criminal background checks to screen out job applicants -- even if they weren't convicted of a crime.
Its settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is part of a national government crackdown on hiring policies that can hurt blacks and Hispanics.
The oldest rule in the book -- that it helps to be good looking -- is getting some new attention.
This past month saw the publication of two books from both sides of the Atlantic that track the power of sex appeal in the workplace. The books, both indirectly and directly, also raise the question of whether a civil society should protect those who don't fit its standards of beauty.
Advocates for the Adonises might counter the very suggestion that such protections should be put in place by arguing that beauty is subjective. But as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said on a case related to pornography, you know it when you see it. Nevertheless, as University of Texas economist Dan Hamermesh demonstrates, there's in fact statistical analysis to back up the belief that the good-looking are given preferred status in the workplace. In promoting the publication this month of his book, "Beauty Pays," Hamermesh states the following in a New York Times op-ed:
The trend, which cuts across gender lines, should be cause for judicial remedy, says Hamermesh.
"With all the gains to being good-looking, you would think that more people would get plastic surgery or makeovers to improve their looks," he also writes. "A more radical solution may be needed: Why not offer legal protections to the ugly, as we do with racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and handicapped individuals?"
In 1999, Nancy McClure wanted to join the National Guard. She was 37, close to when many veterans hope to retire. The recruiter said she was too old. Two years later, she returned to that recruiter's office with two daughters who planned to enlist. McClure learned about an age waiver and promptly joined the Missouri National Guard. She was 40 years old in basic training and in great physical shape. But in 2007, she was almost kicked out. The reason: her weight.
"Before I was deployed to Kosovo, I knew that if I didn't lose weight while I was there, I would not be able to re-enlist," McClure said.
Peaking at 230 pounds in Kosovo, Staff Sgt. McClure lost 45 pounds during the deployment. That loss wasn't enough and back home, McClure found it difficult to maintain good habits. For a 2010 physical fitness test, she was too slow in the running portion by 45 seconds -- that's like an hour when it comes to running. It was time to bring in the big guns.