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Founders Brewing Co.: 'We realize we need to talk about this now'

Posted at 9:12 AM, Oct 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-31 16:10:47-04

(WXYZ) — UPDATE: Founders Brewing Co. and Tracy Evans have reached a settlement in the racial discrimination lawsuit

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Original story below:

Founders Brewing Co. addressed the criticism it has been receiving amid a racial discrimination lawsuit.

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The deposition in the lawsuit was released earlier this week.

In a letter on its website, Founders' co-founders Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers said they apologizes to its employees for the negative attention.

"We have committed to work closely with them to make any changes to the company that need to be made to ensure a positive future. Those conversations are underway," they said.

Stevens and Engbers says they cannot talk specifically about the lawsuit due to the pending litigation, but "seeing the integrity and value systems of Founders being questions is one of the hardest things" the company has ever experienced.

"We had been advised not to talk about any of this, even as allegations have been cast in our direction. But we realize we need to talk about this now," they said.

"Whatever falls short – according to our culture bringing people together and standards – will be fixed. Our Founders Family will point us in the right direction," they said.

Tracy Evans filed the lawsuit last October. He was the events and promotions manager for Founders' locations in Grand Rapids and Detroit. He said he was the only minority manager at Founders, and said co-workers used racial slurs around him and other employees.

In the leaked deposition, Evans' Attorney, Jack Schulz, asked Founders' Manager Dominic Ryan, "Are you aware Tracy is African American?"

Ryan allegedly responded, according to the leaked deposition, "I'm not sure of his lineage so I can't answer that."

Later on in the deposition, Schulz asked, "I guess your testimony is you have no idea if Tracy is a minority, if he's African-American?"

"I don't know Tracy's lineage, so I can't speculate on whether he's...if he's from African or not," Ryan is alleged to have responded.

View the full letter from Founders below:

"To our Customers and Communities:

We understand that we have built our company because of the support of our customers – who are really more than that. They’re our fans. They’re the reason that Founders exists and has seen the growth it has over the years.

Over the course of 22 years, we’ve created a company and a culture that was built on the very basis that beer is the conduit that brings people together. It connects us and celebrates people from all different backgrounds.

First and foremost, we apologize to our more than 600 employees – who work hard every day to make and serve some of the best beer in the world – for all of the negative attention. We have committed to work closely with them to make any changes to the company that need to be made to ensure a positive future. Those conversations are underway.

Because of the pending litigation that has received so much attention of late, we can’t talk any more specifically about the lawsuit that has been in the news. But we want to tell our customers in Detroit, in Michigan and around the country that seeing the integrity and value system of Founders being questioned is one of the hardest things we have ever experienced.

We had been advised not to talk about any of this, even as allegations have been cast in our direction. But we realize we need to talk about this now.

Whatever falls short – according to our culture bringing people together and standards – will be fixed. Our Founders Family will point us in the right direction.

To our local customers – please know that we are committed to Michigan and expanding our presence to Detroit because of the people here, from all walks of life, who come together around the aspects of life they enjoy. We want to continue to earn the trust it takes to be one of those.

To beer enthusiasts everywhere – we want to continue to earn your support.

To the restaurants and bars that serve our products – we share your values. We’ll fix any issues. We want to continue to help you make your customers happy.

Additionally, we want you to know that we withdrew from the Fall Beer Fest in Detroit this weekend so that we wouldn’t serve as a distraction, given all of the recent headlines. We made that decision with the safety of our employees in mind. It was with the best of intentions – for our company, our industry and the city. We look forward to participating in future years.

Thank you,

Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers
Co-Founders"