Walid Elkhatib refusal to handle or serve pork has resulted in having to give up his Dunkin' Donuts franchise. "What is life without dignity and your beliefs?" he told a reporter in 2007. Dunkin' Donuts operator gives up franchise in pork battle
An Arab-American owner of a Chicago-area Dunkin' Donuts store has to give up his franchise after he lost his long-running legal battle with the restaurant chain over his religious objections to selling pork products.
A lawyer for Walid Elkhatib said Tuesday that his client is in the process of removing Dunkin' Donuts signs from his Westchester outlet, but apparently not fast enough for the company.
Dunkin' Donuts went to federal court in Chicago on March 27 to stop Elkhatib, 59, from using the company's trademarks and other proprietary materials.
The company's lawsuit came two weeks after a federal jury found that the chain did not discriminate against Elkhatib for refusing to renew his franchise agreement because he declined to sell breakfast sandwiches with bacon, ham or sausage.
The dietary restrictions of Elkhatib's Muslim faith forbid him from eating or handling pork. When he decided to go into the restaurant business, his faith was one of the reasons why he invested in Dunkin' Donuts in 1979. The chain did not introduce breakfast sandwiches until 1984.
For nearly 20 years, Dunkin' Donuts accommodated his religious beliefs, even providing him signs for his store that said, "No meat products available," Elkhatib asserted in court documents. But in 2002, the company reversed course and told him it would not renew his franchise agreement if he did not sell its full line of products.
Elkhatib sued the company but because he is not an employee of Dunkin' Donuts, he could not sue under federal laws banning religious discrimination in the work place. Instead, he invoked a law that bars racial and certain forms of ancestry discrimination in the making of contracts.
A Chicago federal judge rejected Elkhatib's claim, finding that it was a religious rather than a racial claim. But in 2007 an appellate court allowed the case to go to trial, finding that Dunkin' Donuts did not consistently apply its rules on franchise holders. In fact, Elkhatib's lawyer found a Chicago location that did not sell breakfast sandwiches with pork because many of the customers followed Jewish dietary laws that ban the consumption of pork products.
Elkhatib's franchise agreement expired in April 2008, but Dunkin' Donuts allowed him to keep operating the store until the end of the trial.
After the four-day trial ended March 13 in favor of Dunkin' Donuts, Elkhatib continued to use its trademarks although his franchise agreement had expired, the company said in its suit. Elkhatib also has not returned company operating manuals and other materials despite repeated request, the company said.
Elkhatib's lawyer, Robert Habib, said his client will end his association with Dunkin' Donuts, but he has a 10-year lease on the property and owns the equipment.
"He plans to continue to operate a restaurant," Habib said. "Walid will survive."