Founders Brewing Co. settles racial discrimination lawsuit

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Founders Brewing Co. and former employee Tracy Evans have reached a settlement agreement in a racial discrimination lawsuit that escalated into nationwide press coverage and a multi-state boycott of the brand. 

A joint statement released Thursday afternoon said the terms of the settlement will not be disclosed and the Grand Rapids-based brewing giant won't have further comment on the case. 

Founders Brewing Company's Detroit taproom at 456 Charlotte Street.

In a statement, Founders' co-founders, Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers, said they 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," they said. "We agreed that nobody be viewed at fault here. 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."

The statement also says Stevens and Engbers are committed to diversity and inclusion in their company and they "abhor discriminatory action of any type." 

More:Founders Brewing diversity and inclusion director quits

More:Details of deposition related to racial discrimination lawsuit against Founders Brewing Co. goes public

Evans also delivered a statement drawing attention to "the power we have when we step forward and make ourselves heard."

"Upon hearing us, businesses also have the power to make changes or not," he said in the statement, which was sent to The Detroit News by Founders' communication manager Francesca Jasinski. "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 filed a discrimination lawsuit against Founders last year, but the case came under the spotlight after pages from a deposition were sent to the media. In them, a manager for the brewing company avoided questions about Evans' race and claimed he didn't know President Barack Obama was black because he "never met him." 

Following backlash and boycotts of the brand, Founders closed its Detroit taproom indefinitely, citing safety concerns for its employees there. The beer company started in 1997 in the Grand Rapids area and has grown to be one of the largest in the state.

Twitter: @melodybaetens