Lusby Dunkin’ owner alleges discrimination
African-American woman sues corporation
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.