26 May 2023

Founders Brewing abruptly closes Detroit taproom following new racial discrimination lawsuit

USA | Michigan’s largest craft brewer, Founders, closed its Detroit taproom for good - making the announcement on 1 May and just hours after a former worker filed a new racial discrimination complaint against the company.

In a Facebook post, Founders blamed the closure on sluggish sales after temporary covid closures. The Detroit taproom, which opened in 2018, had 38 employees among more than 400 who work for the Michigan brewery.

Even before covid hit, the Michigan brewer, which has been majority-owned by Spanish brewer Mahou San Miguel since 2019, had to close the taproom for three months that same year.

Founders made promises of a changed culture

This followed a local newspaper report in which Founders’ management claimed it did not know that an employee, who had filed a racial discrimination lawsuit, was Black. The employee alleged a “racist internal corporate culture”, which led to calls for a boycott.

Founders settled the case for an undisclosed amount in 2019 and pledged a number of racial sensitivity efforts, including hiring a director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

It then had the misfortune of reopening the Detroit taproom in February 2020 - weeks before the covid pandemic hit the United States.

However, it appears that Founders’ DEI efforts were to no avail.

A manager with no management duties and server’s pay

The attorney Jack Schulz reached out to Metro Times, a Detroit newspaper, to inform it that his law firm had filed yet another racial discrimination lawsuit against Founders in a Detroit court on 1 May. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a former worker who had left the company the previous week.

According to the complaint, Ms Naeemah Dillard, who is Black, worked at the Detroit taproom from June 2021 until April 2023. Having been subjected to “egregious racial harassment”, the work environment became so racially hostile that she had no choice but to resign, the newspaper said.

One of the complaints Ms Dillard made is that she was promoted to a part-time manager position, but without any management duties and for a server’s pay.

Founders released a statement on 2 May, saying it is “deeply saddened” to learn of the accusations and said it was unaware of the filing when it decided to close the taproom.

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