A discrimination lawsuit filed by a Muslim Dunkin' Donuts franchisee who was not allowed to renew his contract with the chain because of a refusal to sell pork products can proceed, a U.S. appeals court ruled Tuesday.
The decision reversed an Illinois federal court judge's 2004 ruling that rejected Walid Elkhatib's argument that Dunkin' Donuts discriminated against him based on his race by making the sale of breakfast sandwiches with bacon, ham or sausage a mandatory part of his franchise agreement.
If you stopped reading there you'd think, "here we go again, some guy who wants the company to change to fit his religious demands". You'd also think that Dunkin' Donuts, who is the franchiser, has the right to enforce its franchise rules.
But you'd be mistaken:
According to court papers, Elkhatib, a Palestinian Arab, has been a Dunkin' Donuts franchisee since 1979, before the company began selling any pork.
Once breakfast sandwiches were introduced in 1984, Elkhatib's Chicago-area Dunkin' Donuts outlets sold them without bacon, ham or sausage for nearly 20 years. The company did not object, even providing him with a sign that said "Meat Products Not Available."
So his customer base already knows that the products aren't available (for over 20 years) and have adapted, and the company has, in the past, shown active support for the franchisee, even providing signs advertising the fact that pork (meat) products aren't available.
Then, there's this:
"There is significant evidence that the carrying of breakfast sandwiches was not an issue of importance to Dunkin Donuts. It allowed other franchises in the area to refuse to carry any breakfast sandwiches at all, when merely relocating the stores, or in one case merely rearranging the displays, would have allowed them to carry the full line," Rovner wrote.
She added that "there is no evidence that there was any change in corporate policy, or even regional policy, on the matter."
Now the suit is based in "racial discrimination". I'm not sure how that applies. But if there has been no announced corporate policy change requiring franchisees to carry the products or lose their franchise and other franchises are allowed to determine which of the products Dunkin' Donuts offers they want to carry, I'm not sure I see where DD has a leg to stand on here. A successful franchise (almost 30 years strongly suggests success) which has never carried a product line and never been required to carry it per the franchise agreement now suddenly cut loose because of a refusal to carry pork products.
Something's fishy. There may be more to this than in the news story, but based solely on the info carried in the story, I can see why the judge gave it a "good to go" nod.
Hey, meat sells and that guy was losing business for the company. The concept of pork not being halal or kosher is ancient superstition based on food poisoning being more common in pork back before it could be refrigerated/more easily preserved. It’s the 21st century now, and it is time to do away with superstitions like that.
Doing a little digging around, it appears this may revolve around DD making accommodation with the franchisee during an existing contract and then insisting on more stringent terms when the time came to sign a new one. I can’t find a fully detailed explanation, but, it seems DD either wanted him to serve the sandwiches as specified by the company or not serve them at all. This falls under the whole consistency argument (i.e. The Big Mac you order in Hoboken will taste the same as the one in San Diego).
I can’t find a fully detailed explanation, but, it seems DD either wanted him to serve the sandwiches as specified by the company or not serve them at all. This falls under the whole consistency argument (i.e. The Big Mac you order in Hoboken will taste the same as the one in San Diego).
Of course all we have to go on is the report above and we all realize that’s fraught with problems in and of itself, but it seems to me that, given the report, he was already in the "not at all" category and had been for years. Secondly, it isn’t like it was something which was being sprung on his unsuspecting customers ... he hadn’t served them for decades.
So while I understand and appreciate your point, it is and was an existing accommodation which, because of the length of time it had been in place, the franchisee had a reasonable expectation it would remain in place. Additionally, unless you know differently, there was no prior notice to him that this was a problem or would be a problem when he tried to renew his franchise.
I know. It is frustrating to not be able to find any more detailed accounts now that "the world is at your fingertips". I had assumed that since
Once breakfast sandwiches were introduced in 1984, Elkhatib’s Chicago-area Dunkin’ Donuts outlets sold them without bacon, ham or sausage for nearly 20 years
that meant that he was serving the sandwiches, just sans pork. This would be a deviation from DD’s recipe. In comments elsewhere, I saw someone positing that it could just be a case of DD having a problm with the franchisee that would be less easily defined in court and that they may have chosen this issue as a reason to sever their relationship.