Founders Brewing Company has settled a lawsuit filed by an ex-employee who accused the company of promoting an “overtly racist culture” where employees frequently used racial slurs.
Backlash against the company intensified last week after general manger Dominic Evans refused to acknowledge the plaintiff, Tracy Evans, is black, The Michigan Star reported. The company announced as a result of the lawsuit it wouldn’t be participating in the Detroit Fall Beer Fest and was closing its Detroit taproom indefinitely out of concern for the safety of its employees.
Founders Brewing and Evans announced in a Thursday statement that the lawsuit has been dismissed after the parties reached a settlement. Under the agreement, however, the terms of the settlement will not be disclosed.
“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,” said Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers, co-founders of the company. “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.”
They said they are “committed to moving the cause of diversity and inclusion forward for Founders.” Graci Harkema, the company’s diversity and inclusion director, announced her resignation last week and said the company was more more interested in “winning the lawsuit” than “the loss of customers, loss of reputation, and loss of employees’ well-being.”
Harkema said the company “didn’t listen to her” and excluded her from the decision making process in a number of interviews following her resignation.
“I’m glad to see that Founders has finally settled the lawsuit. They had the opportunity to do the right thing a long time ago,” she told WOOD TV Friday. “I hope the leadership team truly does use this experience to committing to prioritizing diversity and inclusion with their employees, their consumers, and the community.”
Stevens and Engbers concluded their statement by saying they “abhor discriminatory action of any type and believe that beer should bring people together not divide.”
Evans said he wants “the world to know the power we have when we step forward and make ourselves heard.”
“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,” Evans continued. “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.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Founders Taproom” by Founders Taproom.