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27/12/02 . by unknown . Yahoo! News . USA  
 
McDonald's Franchise Owner Claims Racism  
 
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - A McDonald's franchise owner says she is being forced to give up her four restaurants because of a federal racial discrimination lawsuit she filed against the company.  

Deborah Sonnenschein, who is black, says McDonald's officials have told her to hand in the keys to her restaurants Jan. 20 Martin Luther King Jr.'s holiday, the Connecticut Post reported.

Besides the lawsuit, Sonnenschein has filed a complaint about her ouster with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (news - web sites).

McDonald's denies the racism allegations and says Sonnenschein's restaurants are not meeting company standards.

Sonnenschein says her federal discrimination lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, came after corporate headquarters began sparring with her over leases, charges and other issues.

"I believe I'm being mistreated by McDonald's because of the lawsuit," she said.

McDonald's, she adds, responded to her suit by "concocting" claims about problems at her restaurants. Those negative reports led corporate officials to terminate her franchise rights, she says.

McDonald's "is using exaggeration and falsehoods about the operation of my restaurants," Sonnenschein said during a news conference Thursday.

The company released a brief statement denying the allegations and saying her restaurants are not up to company standards regarding quality, service and cleanliness

"Ms. Sonnenschein's allegations are simply not true. McDonald's is proud of the diversity in its system and does not tolerate discrimination in any form," the chain said.

"Unfortunately, operations at two of Ms. Sonnenschein's four restaurants have repeatedly fallen short of these high standards. Despite our best efforts over the past year, she has not made the necessary improvements," McDonald's said.

"We remain hopeful that Ms. Sonnenschein will bring these restaurants into compliance and have informed her of our willingness to work with her toward that end," the statement concludes.

Sonnenschein, however, claims her problems are part of a growing national pattern.

"Over the last few years, more than 100 African-American (McDonald's) franchises have been turned over out of 350 in the system. That's a lot," she said. There are 12,000 McDonald's franchises in the U.S.

A number of ministers and the leader of the Bridgeport NAACP chapter have pledged to help Sonnenschein, and even to march on McDonald's headquarters outside Chicago.

"What you do to her you do to all of us," said Bishop Kenneth Moales, head of the city's Inter-denominational Ministerial Alliance. "If we go down, we all go down together."  
 
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