Founders Brewing Company Sued for Racial Discrimination (Again) Just Before Detroit Taproom Shut Down

Founders Brewing Company Sued for Racial Discrimination (Again) Just Before Detroit Taproom Shut Down

Founders Brewing Sued for Racial Discrimination Again

In the run up to their announcing their immediate taproom closing in Detroit on May 1st, that Founders Brewing Company is once again being sued for racial discrimination.

This happened previously in 2019, and they temporarily closed the Detroit taproom. This time the taproom is being closed permanently.

(For more information on their previous time being sued, see later in this article.)

As per Detroit Fox News 2:

The Grand Rapids-based brewery abruptly shuttered Monday, citing the impact Covid closures that it said made it difficult to regain foot traffic.

In a statement from Founders, the brewery said the decision to close the taproom was announced to employees Monday morning, and they were not aware of the lawsuit until a reporter contacted them that evening.

That announcement came the same day a lawsuit was filed claiming racial discrimination at the taproom. 

The suit, brought against Founders by a Black employee who worked there from June 2021 until April 2023, claims that the “environment became so objectively racially hostile that she had no choice but to resign.”

This is the second racial discrimination lawsuit filed against Founders because of alleged conduct at the Detroit taproom. In 2019, a former employee sued the company.

The employee behind that lawsuit said he was fired in 2018 after telling his supervisor that he planned to meet with the company’s human resources department to discuss the alleged racist work environment.

After that lawsuit became public, Founders closed the Detroit taproom for several months. The company eventually settled with the former employee. When the taproom reopened in 2020, it said it was creating a diversity and inclusion strategy.

Founders Brewing again sued for racial discrimination just before announcing Detroit Taproom closure

In October 2019 they announced that the Detroit taproom would be ‘temporarily closed’, citing that they were going through internal revitalization, and changing their diversity programming and working to ensure a better future for their company and employees.

The tap room soon re opened a few months later, just before COVID – 19 and the coronavirus pandemic hit, causing further issues to the tap room and to Founders Brewing Company.

On May 1st they abruptly shuttered the Detroit tap room again, this time posting on social media that it is permanent and citing COVID – 19 and pandemic related issues as the cause.

According to the new lawsuit, the former employee who worked there until April of this year said she was promoted to a part-time management role with no focus area, while white managers had a focus work area.

While she was a manager, she allegedly was still required to work server shifts and would not receive her managerial pay during those shifts. The lawsuit claims she was the only manager required to work server shifts.

Other instances of alleged racial discrimination were also described in the lawsuit, including someone telling the employee to be careful that her toddler doesn’t “steal any money,” and her allegedly being told that she hasn’t “struggled enough to be black.” She also claims that her name would be intentionally mispronounced.

According to the lawsuit, the employee reported the discrimination. She alleges in the suit that her complaints were dismissed or her hours were cut.

Eventually, she resigned. The lawsuit says that a white manager also resigned because they did not want to “be part of the ongoing discrimination she was being subjected to.”

Founders Brewing again sued for racial discrimination just before announcing Detroit Taproom closure

Statement From Founders Brewing Company

Founders Brewing Company issued the following statement about the lawsuit:

“We are deeply saddened and concerned to learn of the recent accusations that have been brought against the Detroit Taproom. We take these claims very seriously, and we are conducting a thorough internal investigation.

Since 2019, we have instituted mandatory bias, discrimination and harassment training throughout our organization. We have reexamined our policies and enacted new policies, along with implementing new procedures for the reporting of workplace concerns.

Closing a business is a difficult decision, and this decision was made after a several year evaluation of the Detroit Taproom’s financial performance that began prior to COVID and was made worse by the pandemic. During the closure of our Detroit facility on Monday, we were unaware of the filing. We announced the closing to all of our Detroit staff on Monday morning, and did not learn about the lawsuit filed against Founders until that evening when a reporter contacted us. As with any closure, there was a lot of work that needed to be done to prepare for the loss of this extension, including redistribution of internal assets, conversations with our landlord and pulling together a comprehensive severance plan, all of which take time.

As to the pending lawsuit, we are sorry that this individual did not have a good experience with us, and to the extent it was due to our actions or inactions that contributed to that, we are deeply sorry.”

Founders Brewing Company

Founders Brewing Company Announces Detroit Taproom Closure

Founders Brewing Company Announces the Closure of Their Detroit Taproom

For more information on the topic – see the original article here: Founders Announce Closure of their Detroit Taproom.

Their announcement, which was posted at 6:30 PM (EST), and which nearly immediately afterwards they turned off and cancelled commenting on, reads:

It is with with great sadness that we announce that the Founders Detroit Taproom will be permanently closings its doors today.

Unfortunately, our Detroit location has not been immune to the struggle to regain foot traffic after temporary Covid closures that have impacted restaurants and bars across the nation. We are working diligently to find new positions within the company for the employees impacted by this closure.

We would like to thank all of our loyal customers, Mug Clubbers, and friends for your support and business over the years. It has been a great pleasure to serve you.

Founders Brewing Company – Facebook Post

The Detroit Free Press also broke the story shortly thereafter, and in their article stated:

The Grand Rapids-based brewery, Michigan’s largest, cited “an ever changing craft beer market, coupled with the struggle to regain foot traffic after temporary COVID-19 closures” as the reasons for shuttering its second location, which originally opened in late 2017 at 456 Charlotte in Midtown Detroit.

“This decision involved a lot of careful consideration of each aspect of our business, and ultimately, what we felt was best for the company and our employees overall,” said Founders CEO Elton Andres Knight in a statement. “We explored every possible avenue to course correct the business and gave it as much time as we could. We are now working diligently to find new positions within the company for the employees who are displaced upon this closure.”

Founders Brewing Co. closes Detroit taproom, cites ‘ever-changing’ craft beer market

Founders Brewing Company states that they made the decision to close their brewery ahead of any news or knowledge of the lawsuit filed against them. It is interesting to note that they posted their announcement at 6:30 PM, despite their stating they told employees that morning. The comment section was immediately deleted and blocked, which I can only imagine was filled with a lot of interesting choice comments that they wished not to be seen.

Initial Racial Discrimination Case

In October of 2019, Founders Brewing Company announced that they were closing the Detroit taproom “until further notice”.

Michigan’s largest brewery sent an email to ticket-holders of this weekend’s highly anticipated Canadian Breakfast Stout release and party in Detroit that it’s canceling said release and party while closing the popular Detroit taproom indefinitely “in light of the recent events” and due to safety concerns for its employees.

Those “recent events,” of course, include the pending racial discrimination lawsuit that reached national news this week when a leaked deposition first posted by the Detroit Metro Times sparked a social media firestorm and led to some Detroit shops, bars and restaurants pulling Founders products from their shelves.

Founders co-founder and president Dave Engbers told the Free Press on Friday afternoon that the brewery closed its Detroit taproom out of an abundance of caution for employee safety and that it has “every intention” of reopening the taproom.Founders Brewing closes Detroit taproom indefinitely amid racial discrimination lawsuit

Founders, which had announced a majority-stake sale to Spanish beer company Mahou San Miguel just weeks earlier, temporarily closed its Detroit taproom in October 2019 after a racial discrimination lawsuit a former employee filed against the company made national headlines and caused a social media firestorm. It reopened the taproom in February 2020 with plans to donate 100% of the profits from the taproom to charities and community organizations through “at least 2022” (it continued that commitment through Sunday, the company said). The COVID-19 pandemic began a month later.

Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers co-founded Founders in 1997 and, along with Larry Bell and Bell’s Brewery, helped lead the Michigan craft beer boom into the 2000s and 2010s. Founders became best known for its sessionable All Day IPA, which represents more than half its output, as well as its Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Dirty Bastard scotch ale and Centennial IPA.

Stevens stepped down as CEO in 2022. Engbers is still with the company as president.Founders Brewing Co. closes Detroit taproom, cites ‘ever-changing’ craft beer market

Founders Brewing Company

Founders Brewing Company was certainly one of the early craft giants of the 2010s, but their market share, and value has greatly declined over recent years. While still greatly available and distributed, they have fallen off many ‘favorites’ lists.

Their controversies and issues have also certainly caught up to them over the years.

Lawsuits, racial discrimination cases, employee issues, and much more has caused them heartache throughout the late 2010s and early 2020s.

COVID-19 and the coronavirus has probably been the least of their issues in recent years.

For further information on craft beer market share, check out our two articles here:

For More Information About Founders Brewing Company

The following comes from Untappd. Founders Brewing Company is a macro brewery, and a subsidary of Grupo Mahou-San Miguel, from Grand Rapids, Michigan. They have 975 unique beers, and over 7 million ratings, with a global average rating of 3.96 (as of 5.1.23). Their Untappd description reads: We don’t brew beer for the masses. Instead, our beers are crafted for a chosen few, a small cadre of renegades and rebels who enjoy a beer that pushes the limits of what is commonly accepted as taste. In short, we make beer for people like us. Founders. Brewed for us.

You can follow them on their social media pages here:

Articles we have written:

Reddit Thread About the Lawsuit:

Brewery News

Interested in finding out about many other brewery openings, new locations, closings, movings, and in general brewery news? You can check out our links below:

Thank You For Reading

Tomorrow is May 4th. “May the 4th Be With You.” Anyone planning on doing any fun silly Star Wars stuff? Any breweries you are hitting up for some fun beer releases? I know Bottle Logic is releasing some Star Wars beers. RAR Brewing has hinted that they are doing a Star Wars Out of Order drop soon. (But haven’t given any details as of this morning.)

Lots of places are turning their normal Thursday night trivia into “Star Wars Trivia” nights.

So what all are you getting into?

Then, Friday is Cinco de Mayo (May 5th). And THEN – its the Craft Brewers Conference May 7th – May 10th. What a busy grouping of days!

Thank you for reading everyone. We are gearing up for the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) this upcoming week. We are traveling down Saturday and Sunday, and going to be at the conference late Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

We are totally psyched and cannot wait.

Will you be there? What do you hope to see, learn, do? Anything cool we should check out? Let us know in the comments!

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Cheers All!

-B. Kline

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