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Operator Adds 'No Buy' Push to Complaint Against Dunkin'


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A Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee is circulating a “no buy” coupon on social media, while also filing a lawsuit in federal court today.​

A franchisee claiming widespread discrimination against African-American women by Dunkin’ Donuts added a second punch to her lawsuit filed today: a coupon saying “Dunkin’ Discriminates” and urging people not to buy Dunkin’ products, which she plans to circulate on social media.

Nance Pretto Simmons is the plaintiff, an African-American woman and a Dunkin’ franchisee. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland, alleges “systematic racial discrimination by Dunkin’ Donuts against its own franchisees, specifically those who are African American women” in violation of the Civil Rights Act.

Her attorney, Jerry Marks of Marks & Klein in New Jersey, said, “Just filing a suit is a good start, but clients today take to social media. My client is going to access all sorts of social media and is going to call Dunkin’ to task for what it’s doing to African-American women, and that’s the crux of what is at stake here.”

Dunkin’ Brands Group sent a statement, which read in part: “Ms. Pretto Simmons’ claims against Dunkin’ Brands are without basis. Dunkin’ Brands has been more than fair with her during the course of our long relationship, both with respect to development issues and in our support of the operation of her franchise in Lusby, Maryland, which we have helped her turn into a profitable business. 

“Dunkin’ Brands categorically denies the allegations of discrimination set out in Ms. Pretto Simmons’ complaint and will vigorously defend ourselves against them through the court process, on legal grounds and on the merits.”

Pretto is a Dunkin’ franchisee in Lusby, Maryland, who purchased in 2004 an agreement to open three Dunkin’ locations in the state. She opened one store, in 2006, and then sought through 2015 “to open other store locations, all without success as Dunkin’ improperly rejected every site” suggested and/or “failed to provide her with assistance to locate sites,” according to the complaint.

The suit seeks “declaratory judgment, citing a nationwide policy, seeking relief to force Dunkin’ to institute proper programs to open the way for minority women and in fact all African-Americans to own multiple Dunkin’s,” Marks said.

The suit claims of the more than 7,161 Dunkin’ franchises, fewer than five were at one time owned by African-American women “but now the sole African-American female remaining is Pretto.”

The NAACP of Maryland is deciding what level of support it will provide the lawsuit. “It doesn’t have a good smell,” said Edsel Brown of the Maryland chapter. Dunkin’ partnered with NAACP in 2013 to increase the number of African-American franchisees, but the number of black franchisees has “substantially decreased” during the partnership, a statement from the chapter said.

“This is an important partnership for the NAACP, which is why this matter required our attention,” said Marvin Owens Jr., economic programs senior national director of the NAACP. “During our research in 2014, we heard similar difficulties from African-American franchisees of Dunkin'.”

In its statement sent September 26, Dunkin’ Brands said it “will continue to support Ms. Pretto Simmons in the operation of her Lusby franchise as well as continue working with our partners in the NAACP and MinorityFran Committee of the International Franchise Association to provide opportunities for individuals of all backgrounds to join our franchise system.” 

 

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Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is associate editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
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Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
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Nancy WeingartnerNancy Weingartner is editor-at-large of Franchise Times magazine and the editor of the Food On Demand media project. You can reach her at 612-767-3200 or at nancyw@franchisetimes.com.
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