McDonald’s is embroiled in two massive lawsuits regarding their treatment of minority employees while their Travis Scott and J Balvin deals run.
By all measures, McDonald’s partnership with Travis Scott has been a massive success. The marketing campaign has boosted sales and driven up McDonald’s stock prices, along with spawning a slew of memes and TikToks.
The combo, featuring a Quarter Pounder with bacon; fries with barbecue sauce; and a Sprite, has also led way to a fashion collaboration between Travis Scott’s label, Cactus Jack, and McDonald’s which sold out in days.
McDonald’s also recently started a less publicized collaboration with J Balvin in which a Big Mac meal comes with a free McFlurry.
While on the surface these partnerships seem like solid marketing efforts, their timing comes at a precarious timing for the fast-food giant.
According to historian Chin Jou, a senior lecturer in American history at the University of Sydney, and the author of Supersizing Urban America: How Inner Cities Got Fast Food With Government Help, “McDonald’s should be in the doghouse when it comes to African Americans right now. This Travis Scott juggernaut has been so successful at obfuscating other McDonald’s-related news items.”
The fast-food giant is currently embroiled with two lawsuits from Black executives and franchise-owners who accuse McDonald’s of racial discrimination.
The first suit claims that McDonald’s conducted a “ruthless purge” of its Black corporate leaders who worked in a “hostile and abusive work environment” prior to their expulsion. In 2014 McDonald’s had 42 Black executives. Last year they only had seven. Plaintiffs Vicki Guster-Hines and Domineca Neal attribute their demotion from vice-president roles in 2018 as racially biased.
The second lawsuit by a group of franchise owners claims that they were subjected to “systematic and covert racial discrimination” that lasted decades. They were allegedly strong-armed into opening franchises in low income and high crime neighborhoods, that generated less revenue and higher employee turnover. They also claim that Black-owned franchises were given less financial support than white-owned stores and that they were subject to harsher internal reviews.
“African American franchisees were disparately strong-armed, driving them out of the system in record numbers, and damaging them by the loss of equity in their businesses,” the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit names the former and current CEOs of McDonald’s, Steve Easterbrook and Chris Kempczinski, saying that the company culture under both leaders “became overtly hostile to African Americans in both words and deeds.”
Easterbrook was recently fired for sending sexually explicit images to coworkers from his corporate email. And nearly one out of every three Black franchisees has left the company since Kempczinski’s takeover.