Ad discrimination suit against McDonald’s allowed to proceed

LEVITTOWN, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 15: A general view of a McDonald’s restaurant on September 15, 2022 in Levittown, New York, United States. Many families along with businesses are suffering the effects of inflation as the economy is dictating a change in spending habits. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by BRUCE BENNETT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

A federal judge has allowed a discrimination lawsuit to proceed that argues that McDonald’s refuses to advertise on Black-owned media networks.

Media entrepreneur Byron Allen, who is Black, has accused McDonald’s of instituting a “racially discriminatory contracting process” in a lawsuit first filed in May 2021.

As the owner of Entertainment Studios Networks and the Weather Group, which includes the Weather Channel, Allen sought $10 billion in damages, alleging that McDonald’s established “a two-tiered, race-based system and shut plaintiff out of the general market (i.e. white-owned media) tier.”

However, a federal judge dismissed the suit in December, saying that the allegations were not sufficiently supported.

Following a legal back-and-forth, the same judge on 17 September denied a request by McDonald’s to dismiss the case, thereby allowing it to proceed.

Allen alleged that were his company white-owned, it “would have received tens of millions of dollars in advertising revenue from McDonald’s on an annual basis.”

He also alleged that McDonald’s contracts with a separate advertising agency for “African-American media” with an aim of spending a budget that “is de minimis compared to the general market budget.”

Allen argued his company had programming geared towards a variety of viewers, especially after its 2018 purchase of the Weather Channel, and that McDonald’s has advertised on “similarly situated, white-owned networks.”

Loretta Lynch, the former US attorney general who is now a partner at law firm Paul, Weiss representing McDonald’s, said Allen’s complaint was “about revenue, not race.”

The “plaintiffs’ groundless allegations ignore both McDonald’s legitimate business reasons for not investing more on their channels and the company’s long-standing business relationships with many other diverse-owned partners,” she said.


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