Lusby Dunkin’ owner al­leges dis­crim­i­na­tion

African-Amer­i­can woman sues cor­po­ra­tion

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By AN­DREW CEPHAS acephas@somd­news.com

Ch­e­sa­peake Beach res­i­dent and Lusby Dunkin’ Donuts owner Nance Pretto-Sim­mons re­cently filed a law­suit in Mary­land District Court against Dunkin’ Donuts Fran­chised Restau­rants, al­leg­ing the cor­po­ra­tion know­ingly vi­o­lates the United States Civil Rights Act by en­gag­ing in sys­tem­atic ra­cial dis­crim­i­na­tion against African-Amer­i­can women.

Pretto-Sim­mons is su­ing Dunkin’ Donuts for com- pen­satory dam­ages, dam­ages for emo­tional pain and suf­fer­ing, con­se­quen­tial dam­ages, puni­tive dam­ages and at­tor­ney’s fees and costs, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit filed Sept. 25. As part of judg­ment, she is also re­quest­ing the declar­ing and ad­judg­ing that Dunkin’ Donuts vi­o­lated the Civil Rights Act, that the cor­po­ra­tion be in­structed to stop its dis­crim­i­na­tory poli­cies and re­quired to im­me­di­ately im­ple­ment a pro­gram of mi­nor­ity in­cen­tives, and that it be re­quired to im­ple­ment a re­me­dial dam-

ages pro­gram to foster and as­sist African-Amer­i­can fe­male fran­chisees in eco­nom­i­cally ad­van­ta­geous ar­eas.

In­di­cat­ing her civil rights have been vi­o­lated, Pretto-Sim­mons is su­ing on two counts: a civil rights vi­o­la­tion and a dis­crim­i­na­tion vi­o­la­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the law­suit, Pretto-Sim­mons is the only African-Amer­i­can fe­male Dunkin’ Donuts fran­chisee in the coun­try. The suit claims there have been five African-Amer­i­can women fran­chisees at most.

Pretto-Sim­mons opened her Lusby lo­ca­tion in 2006 as part of her Strate­gic

De­vel­op­ment Agree­ment (SDA), which is a re­quire­ment of Dunkin’s fran­chise sys­tem, the law­suit states. In­stead of sell­ing sin­gle lo­ca­tions, Dunkin’ Donuts re­quires the pur­chase of an SDA to de­velop three or more stores in a des­ig­nated ge­o­graphic area. Pretto-Sim­mons al­leges her at­tempts to open other lo­ca­tions were thwarted by the cor­po­ra­tion, which also didn’t as­sist her in find­ing vi­able ex­pan­sion lo­ca­tions, as called for by its obli­ga­tions in the SDA.

After open­ing her ini­tial lo­ca­tion, Pretto-Sim­mons spent the next nine years at­tempt­ing to open other store lo­ca­tions, but Dunkin’ Donuts al­legedly im­prop­erly re­jected ev­ery site she sug­gested and/or failed to pro­vide her with any as­sis­tance to lo­cate suit­able sites. The law­suit ex­plains that the eco­nom­ics of own­ing Dunkin’ Donuts fran­chises is to have at least three lo­ca­tions so the over­head costs can be ab­sorbed by the mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions and yield a profit to the fran­chisees.

By re­strict­ing a fran­chisee from open­ing ad­di­tional lo­ca­tions, the law­suit states fran­chisees are kept at barely prof­itable con­di­tions. Adding she spent time and re­sources to find a sec­ond lo­ca­tion from 2006 to 2015, Pretto-Sim­mons al­leged all 32 sites she lo­cated and sub­mit­ted to the cor­po­ra­tion were falsely deemed un­suit­able “for var­i­ous un­founded/bo­gus and dis­crim­i­na­tory rea­sons.”

“Dunkin’s dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tice sys­tem­at­i­cally forces African Amer­i­can fe­male fran­chisees out of the sys­tem — de­spite all the time, money and ef­fort they com­mit to the busi­ness. The prac­tice has been uti­lized by Dunkin on four out of its five fe­male African Amer­i­can fran­chisees, leav­ing [Pretto-Sim­mons] as the only African Amer­i­can fe­male re­main­ing in the Dunkin sys­tem,” the law­suit al­leges.

Dunkin’ Donuts in­volve­ment with the Mi­nor­ity-Fran Com­mit­tee of the In­ter­na­tional Fran­chise As­so­ci­a­tion and the Multicultural Food­ser­vice and Hos­pi­tal­ity Al­liance is de­scribed in the law­suit as be­ing con­trary to its al­leged dis­crim­i­na­tory con­duct.

The law­suit also de­scribes the di­rect, in­di­rect and in­duced ef­fects that mi­nor­ity busi­ness en­ter­prises have on the com­mu­nity, to in­clude the bil­lions of dol­lars they gen­er­ate for the na­tion’s econ­omy. By al­legedly thwart­ing Pretto-Sim­mons’ ef­forts to ex­pand, the law­suit states the cor­po­ra­tion re­stricted the po­ten­tial eco­nomic stim­u­lus into ar­eas where African-Amer­i­cans and oth­ers are seek­ing em­ploy­ment and de­nied the op­por­tu­nity for these com­mu­ni­ties to en­hance their eco­nomic well-be­ing.

“As far as African Amer­i­can women are con­cerned, Dunkin’s slo­gan should be ‘Dunkin Runs on Dis­crim­i­na­tion’ rather than ‘Amer­ica Runs on Dunkin,’” the law­suit states.

Pretto-Sim­mons, rep­re­sented by Ger­ald Marks and Cor­lie McCormick, de­manded the al­le­ga­tions be tried in a jury trial.

In a phone in­ter­view Monday, Marks said no spe­cific money dam­ages are re­quested at this time be­cause in fed­eral court plain­tiffs have to prove their dam­ages. Marks said this will be proved at trial.

“We know there are no other African-Amer­i­can women in the sys­tem. We’re also go­ing to see what there is with re­gard to African-Amer­i­can men. We don’t know at this point, but we have sus­pi­cions as to that too,” Marks said.

Marks rep­re­sented a sim­i­lar law­suit against Dunkin’ Donuts sev­eral years ago after an In­dian Amer­i­can woman, Priti Shetty, ac­cused the cor­po­ra­tion of dis­crim­i­nat­ing against her and re­strict­ing her from open­ing up a third Dunkin’ lo­ca­tion in New Jer­sey. Marks said this case was set­tled with Dunkin’ Donuts pur­suant to a con­fi­den­tial set­tle­ment.

Michael Kent, pres­i­dent of the Calvert County branch of the NAACP, said the or­ga­ni­za­tion is aware of the suit and is sup­port­ing Pretto-Sim­mons. Kent in­di­cated the law­suit has been for­warded to the na­tional branch, which is sup­port­ing Pretto-Sim­mons, but wait­ing to see more of the ini­tial fil­ings be­fore tak­ing any ac­tion in the case.

Calls to Pretto-Sim­mons and Dunkin’ Donuts have not been re­turned at this time.

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