AP, April 1, 2009
A Muslim franchisee of a suburban Chicago Dunkin’ Donuts has surrendered his longtime store ownership after losing a legal battle with the chain over religious objections to selling pork.
Walid Elkhatib, 59, removed Dunkin’ Donuts signs from his Westchester store, his attorney Robert Habib said in a story posted Wednesday on the Chicago Tribune’s Web site.
Last week the chain sued Elkhatib, who has owned a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise since 1979, to bar him from using the company’s trademark.
That lawsuit followed a federal jury’s ruling earlier this month that the chain did not discriminate against Elkhatib for refusing to renew his franchise agreement because he would not sell breakfast sandwiches containing ham, bacon or sausage. Muslims are forbidden from eating pork and many also refuse handling the meat.
For nearly two decades, Dunkin’ Donuts allowed Elkhatib to not sell pork, even providing him with signs that read “No meat products available.” But in 2002, the company said it would not renew the franchise agreement unless he sold all company products.
Andrew Mastrangelo, manager of public relations for Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin’ Brands Inc., noted that the jury’s verdict was unanimous and the court ruled against Elkhatib’s discrimination claims.
Since he was not employee of the company, Elkhatib could not sue it under federal laws prohibiting workplace religious discrimination. So he sued under a law that bans racial and ancestry discrimination in the making of contracts.
Habib found a Chicago location that did not sell pork products because many customers followed Jewish rules restricting pork.
Elkhatib’s franchise agreement ended in April 2008, but the company said he could operate the store until the end of the trial.