Homophobic Name Tag Stirs Controversy
by Breanna Fuss, Reporter
June 26, 2014 8:50 PM
The Taco John’s in Yankton is under fire Thursday night. One of the managers is accused of forcing an employee to cover his name tag with a homophobic sticker.
Sixteen-year-old Tyler Brandt started working at the Taco John's in Yankton earlier in June. Brandt said he quickly learned the managers have a reputation for picking on employees. But, he never thought it would go this far.
At 16, Tyler Brandt has already dealt with numerous people making fun who he chooses to love.
"It took me such a long time to realize that people have their own opinions and you can't change people's opinions," Brandt said.
But earlier this week when his shift manager brought Brandt into his office, Brandt said things went too far.
"He printed it out and it stuck it to the tag and he handed it to me and was like, 'wear it,' Brandt explained.
This is what Brandt was forced to wear, a sticker replacing his name with a new one, 'Gaytard.'
Brandt said in no way was he physically forced to wear the sticker, he was just told to not take it off.
"More out of fear I forced myself to wear it because I didn't want to lose my job," Brandt said.
Intimidated and humiliated, Brandt spent the remainder of the night shift doing his best to hide his new name.
"If the till was sitting in front of me, I would lean forward and make sure it wasn't visible," Brandt said.
But someone did notice it, and now Taco John's Facebook page is filled with angry comments from people from all over the globe, vowing to never eat at the Mexican fast food chain again.
Even co-worker Kayla Martian has turned in her badge.
"I remember one time he said, 'Tyler is so weird because he's so gay, it's not even funny,'" Martian recalled.
The 14-year-old said she has even had her own issues with managers. So, after seeing Brandt stand up and quit after being harassed, she decided to as well.
"It's just rude and it's not professional," Martian said.
Young, but certainly not naïve to how people can be cruel, Brandt said he hopes his story inspires others.
"It's kind of overwhelming to think that so many people are seeing this, but it's just a great opportunity to get the word out," Brandt said.
Patricia Hays, with Taco John’s International Inc. wrote KDLT:
“At Taco John’s, we believe everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. We take any accusation of workplace harassment very seriously. If this occurred it is deplorable. We require our independently owned and operated franchisees to operate their restaurants in compliance with the law, including equal employment and anti-discrimination laws.
As you can understand, because this is an employee relations matter, the independent owner of this franchise business has been made aware of and is investigating the incident.”
The owner of the franchise is a family member of the manager accused of harassing Brandt.
Restaurant Manager John Scott said Brandt chose the slur himself as a nickname joke, and was not forced to wear the name tag.
Brandt is seeking legal advice and is considering filing a lawsuit. He also said a lawyer from New York did contact him Thursday. He said it's not about the money; he just wants all parties involved to be brought to justice.