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Daryl Parks, who served as an attorney for the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, is joining the legal team representing current and former Black McDonald’s franchisee in racial-discrimination lawsuits against the fast-food giant.
Parks has joined Ferraro Law Firm, which is serving as legal counsel for the franchisees in two lawsuits — one filed in late August by former franchisees, and one filed in October by current franchisees. Both groups allege that McDonald’s denied Black franchisees the opportunities it granted white franchisees.
James Ferraro, the firm’s founding partner, told Business Insider in an interview that Parks is the law firm’s answer to former US attorney general Loretta Lynch, who is leading McDonald’s legal counsel in the case.
Parks started an independent law firm in 2017, after more than two decades as partner with Ben Crump. Parks and Crump served as legal counsel in a number of high-profile racial justice cases, representing the families of Martin, Brown, Corey Jones, and Tamir Rice, among many others.
“The case against McDonald’s is historic, and it is a privilege to be representing the Black men and women who were – and continue to be – treated like second-class citizens by the company,” Parks said in a statement.
McDonald’s has denied allegations of racial discrimination. In October, the fast-food giant filed a motion to dismiss the ex-franchisees’ case, which it called illogical.
“What McDonald’s says publicly is different than what they’re actually doing,” Ferraro said. “There’s a difference between actions and words.”
The battle between McDonald’s and Black franchisees has been building for months
Ferraro said that McDonald’s former franchisees began discussing taking legal action against the company last December when Business Insider published an investigation into financial gaps between white and Black franchisees at the fast-food giant.
The investigation found that Black franchisees netted hundreds of thousands of dollars less a year, on average, than their white counterparts at the fast-food giant. As of 2017, the cash-flow gap was about $60,600 every month, according to internal data from the National Black McDonald’s Owners Association. That is more than double the gap of $24,600 in 2012.
Former franchisees filed a complaint in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division in late August, alleging that McDonald’s sent Black franchisees on “financial suicide missions.” Last week, 27 new named plaintiffs joined the lawsuit, which now includes 77 former McDonald’s franchisees and is seeking more than $1 billion in damages.
Black McDonald’s ex-franchisees say in the complaint that they did not receive the same treatment as their white counterparts, and were forced out of the company as a result. Former franchisees claim that they were restricted in where they could expand, limited in their growth opportunities, and faced harsher inspections and requirements.
Current Black franchisees at McDonald’s filed a class-action lawsuit making similar claims in October, also represented by Ferraro.
Two franchisees, brothers James and Darrell Byrd, serve as the named plaintiffs in the complaint. The brothers allege that McDonald’s restricted them to locations in economically-depressed areas while offering greater growth opportunities to white franchisees.
McDonald’s said in a statement it is reviewing the current franchisees’ complaint and takes the allegations in the case seriously.
“McDonald’s has an obvious interest in franchisees maintaining successful and profitable restaurants, which is why McDonald’s supports all franchisees, including those facing economic hardships,” the statement reads. “With respect to the named plaintiffs in this complaint, Jim and Darryl Byrd, McDonald’s has invested significantly in each of their respective businesses after they ran into business difficulties caused by mismanagement of their organizations.”