Dunkin’ Donuts has prevailed after a four-day trial with a former franchise owner, Walid Elkhatib. Elkhatib has had a long-running fight with the chain over his refusal to sell products containing pork. No one, it seems, messes with the doughnut people.
Elkhatib, 59, was accused of continuing to use the company’s trademarks and other proprietary materials after the chain withdrew his license over the refusal to sell some of the products. Elkhatib would not sell breakfast sandwiches with bacon, ham or sausage.
Notably, Elkhatib decided to buy the franchise because of his religious beliefs since the chain did not have any pork products. However, that changed in 1984. Yet, Elkhatib claimed that for 20 years the restaurant agreed to let him forego selling the products — even providing him signs for his store that said, “No meat products available.”
The accommodation ended in 2002. Elkhatib’s lawsuit against Dunkin’ Donuts for religious discrimination failed as did a claim that he was being discriminated against due to this ancestry as an Arab-American. However, in 2007 an appellate court found in his favor based on the fact that the chain did not treat all franchise holders the same since at least one Chicago location did not sell pork products to accommodate Jewish customers. The court cited three stores without breakfast options:
Of the three franchises in the Chicago area who refused to carry the full line of breakfast sandwiches, none were owned by an Arab. Dunkin Donuts nevertheless argues that they are not similarly-situated because their reasons for refusing to carry the sandwiches were different from Elkhatib’s. One of those franchises did not carry breakfast sandwiches at all because its lease prohibited it from serving sandwiches. Another did not carry any breakfast sandwiches because it ostensibly lacked space for the toaster oven or microwave needed to do so. Finally, the third franchise did not carry any pork products because it sought to meet the demand in the area for a kosher establishment.
Elkhatib also claimed that a Dunkin’ Donut official made anti-Arab remarks in the course of this conflict.
Notably, Dunkin’ Donuts recently caved into pressure and withdrew an ad featuring Rachael Ray wearing a scarf that resembled a keffiyeh, a traditional headdress worn by Arab men.
Elkhatib has now agreed (with the expiration of his franchise) to give up the association and continue to run his business as an independent restaurant.
For a copy of the earlier 7th Circuit opinion, click here
For the full story, click here.