Taco John's has proven that fast food can be tasteless in more ways than one.
Tyler Brandt, an openly gay 16-year-old, was given a name tag reading "Gaytard" during his shift at a Yankton, South Dakota Taco John's franchise in June. His night manager instructed him to wear it for the rest of the night. See also: Twin Cities Residents Successfully Petition Against Offensive Chino Latino Billboard
"Being an employee and not wanting to upset my manager, I put it on. I felt like I was at risk of getting terminated. He was already upset with me because I was having a hard time learning things and wasn't used to the job," Brandt told the Press & Dakotan in June. "After putting it on, I asked him if it would be all right to take it off. He said I should wear it. I didn't want to upset him, so I wore it the rest of the night."
In a post he wrote for the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) Blog of Civil Rights, Brandt recalls trying to position himself in a way that kept customers from seeing his name tag. In response, the night manager made a concerted effort to loudly refer to Brandt as "Gaytard" in front of customers.
The next day, Brandt turned in his uniform. When the manager asked him to return the name tag, he refused, having decided to use it as evidence.
Brandt went public with his story and, in response, Taco John's International issued a statement saying that though the company is against harassment in the workplace, it's up to the local franchise to take action against it.
"Well, all the local franchise did about it was say that the name tag was my idea and that I thought it was funny," Brandt writes.
Patricia Hays, general counsel for Taco John's International, Inc., told the Press & Dakotan that because the location was independently owned and operated, the company could not investigate the incident.
"We've contacted the independent owner and made him aware of what is alleged to have happened and requested that he do an investigation and handle it," she said.
On Tuesday, the ACLU filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the South Dakota Department of Labor on Brandt's behalf, claiming that Taco John's violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the South Dakota Human Rights Act.
In conjunction with Brandt, the ACLU launched a petition to demand an apology from Taco John's and to raise public awareness about workplace discrimination and bullying. Brandt and the ACLU also started a campaign called "Taco John's Called Me a 'Gaytard,'" on Tumblr, encouraging others to share photos of themselves with derogatory names they've been called.
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