Food Service & Agriculture, Human Resources, and Law

Founders settles discrimination lawsuit

November 1, 2019
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Founders Brewing Co. Blushing Monk ale beer bottles
Bottles of Blushing Monk ale. Courtesy Founders Brewing Co.

Founders Brewing Co. and a former employee have settled a racial discrimination lawsuit.

The lawsuit between former Detroit employee Tracy Evans and Grand Rapids-based Founders was dismissed after the parties “reached a settlement agreement,” according to statement from both parties posted to Founders’ website yesterday.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Founders declined further comment at press time.

The lawsuit against Founders was filed in August 2018 by Evans. Evans, who is African-American, alleged co-workers used the N-word around him and labeled segregated office printers, according to the Detroit Free Press. Evans also alleged Founders fired him in retaliation for his complaints to human resources.

“Through recent discussions with Tracy, we listened, engaged in self-discovery and reached common ground to make amends,” Founders says in its statement, attributed to co-founders Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers.

“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 re-build our relationships.”

The settlement comes after a tumultuous couple of weeks for the brewery — after an article on a deposition in the case by Detroit Metro Times and the brewery’s subsequent decision to temporarily close its Detroit taproom and pull out of a Detroit beer event.

Founders’ Diversity and Inclusion Director Graci Harkema also publicly resigned from her role last week.

In his statement, Evans acknowledges the brewery’s efforts to make amends going forward.

“I want the world to know the power we have when we step forward and make ourselves heard,” Evans says. “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 ‘seeing color’ and valuing people for who they are and their collection of experiences is the mission.”

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