Founders Brewing Co. settles racial discrimination lawsuit for undisclosed amount

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Founders Brewing Co. closed its Detroit taproom until further notice amid a racial discrimination lawsuit. - GABE SILVER
  • Gabe Silver
  • Founders Brewing Co. closed its Detroit taproom until further notice amid a racial discrimination lawsuit.

Founders Brewing Co. is looking to put a racial discrimination lawsuit that made national headlines behind it.

Last week, Metro Times published a transcript of the case's deposition, in which management claimed it did not know the employee, Tracy Evans, was Black (as well as former President Barack Obama, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, or basketball legend Michael Jordan, for that matter). The story swiftly went viral, causing Founders more than a few headaches.

Initially, Founders said Evans' allegations were unfounded and that the company was confident it would prevail in court. But now the company has decided to settle with Evans for an undisclosed amount, according to a joint statement provided to Metro Times. Previously, Evans was asking for damages and fees in excess of $75,000.

A statement from Founders' co-founders Dave Engbers and Mike Stevens is below:

We are pleased to settle this case and focus on the future. Through recent discussions with Tracy, we listened, engaged in self-discovery, and reached common ground to make amends. We agreed that nobody be viewed at fault here. Most importantly, this serves as an opportunity to place our full attention on the work we now have to do, as a company of more than 600 dedicated team members, to rebuild our relationships.

Significantly, we are committed to moving the cause of diversity and inclusion forward for Founders. We want every employee to feel valued, respected and safe. We abhor discriminatory action of any type and believe that beer should bring people together and not divide. 

Evans' statement follows:

I am not going to say too much here but I want the world to know the power we have when we step forward and make ourselves heard. Upon hearing us, businesses also have the power to make changes or not. I don't know what happens from here within the doors of Founders Brewing Co. I do know this; we have legal resolution and we have started looking at how ALL of this is affecting human lives. I don't know what Dave and Mike have planned for the future, but I know that that "seeing color" and valuing people for who they are, and their collection of experiences is the mission. Learning from our mistakes is also part of the mission. Founders as a whole made some bad choices. I, as an individual made some mistakes but on this day we look to move forward. When someone offers to change, as humans we have a few choices and I have made the choice to see what Founders does with the path they are about to take. To those that were affected by all of this within Founders and had nothing to do with this, I apologize. To the few of those that were affected by this and you are part of the problem, I hope you listen to what your company is about to start saying. Craft beer is about coming together and celebrating our differences and no dollar amount should make a company want to forget that. A company is nothing without its workers and you deserve to be valued as such and there should be a clear line of what those goals are. As there are still people working for Founders that I still love dearly, I hope for nothing but the best for Founders in the future. I will also be moving on and continuing this fight around the world as the issues that I experienced at Founders are not just a Founders issue, they happen everywhere and I vow to continue to be a vessel to help both employers and employees become better at acknowledging, understanding and dealing with them.

Love you all, thanks for the support and let's continue to stand up for what's right.

Evans, a former manager who worked at Founders' Detroit and Grand Rapids locations, alleged “a racist internal corporate culture” that included white employees repeatedly using the “N word” around him and management labeling a printer for lower-tier employees the “Black guy printer.”

Since Metro Times' original story, dozens of local bars dropped Founders from their menus, the company announced it was closing its Detroit taproom until further notice, it pulled out of Detroit's Michigan Brewers Guild Fall Beer Festival, and its diversity and inclusion director, Graci Harkema, announced her resignation from the company.
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