Midwestern fast food icon Culver's is being sued for discrimination. A former franchisee alleges that the burger and frozen custard chain wouldn't allow him to open a location in a predominantly black neighborhood of Chicago's South Side, reports Nation's Restaurant News.
A federal judge seems to think the case has enough merit to go to trial; this week he refused to dismiss the lawsuit brought on by by former franchisee Michael Wilbern.
Wilbern had managed a dozen KFC locations and a Taco Bell in urban Milwaukee when he decided to get into the Culver’s system. According to the lawsuit, Wilbern tried repeatedly between 2003 and 2012 to build a location in predominantly black communities in the South Side of Chicago. He claims he was denied those locations every time, even though local officials offered him tax incentives to open the location.
Wilbern says that the company instead pushed him to open a store "in the mostly white suburb of Franklin Park" — a location that eventually failed because "two other operators were allowed to open within five or six miles of the location."
While Culver's certainly isn't the first fast food chain to be hit with a discrimination lawsuit, it seems such suits more often deal with the treatment of individual employees: Subway was recently sued for allegedly firing an employee for being HIV-positive, and earlier this year a former McDonald's employee filed suit against a franchisee claiming that she was "subject to a hostile work environment" for being gay. Darden restaurant Seasons 52 was also sued earlier this year for age discrimination in hiring.