YANKTON, S.D. (AP) – An openly gay Yankton teenager is accusing the fast food restaurant where he worked of forcing him to wear a name tag with a homophobic slur.
Restaurant officials dispute the boy’s version of events and say the incident has been blown out of proportion.
Tyler Brandt, 16, resigned from Taco John’s on June 24. He said he kept the name tag as evidence. He and his father are considering suing the restaurant for discrimination.
Brandt said he wore the tag because he feared he would be fired if he refused. He said a supervisor also yelled the slur at him.
“I would always stay behind the till so [customers] couldn’t see the name tag,” he said. “I didn’t want them to see it, but even though they couldn’t see it, he would still call me by the name across the store and customers would notice.”
Restaurant Manager John Scott said Brandt chose the slur himself as a nickname, and was not forced to wear the name tag.
“He asked the manager to make that name tag for him,” Scott said. “He [the manager] didn’t tell him he had to wear it. (Brandt) put it on himself and created the situation.”
Scott said Brandt became upset when he was told to go home early Monday for poor work performance and resigned the next morning. Scott said he has received two death threats related to Brandt’s accusation.
Brandt scoffed at the idea that he asked for the nickname and chose to wear the tag.
“Do you really think I’d want to go around making a mockery of who I am?” he said.
Taco John’s International Inc.’s attorney Patricia Hays said the company won’t investigate the matter because franchise locations are independently owned and operated. Hays said the company does not tolerate workplace harassment and that franchisees are required to have anti-discrimination policies.
Taco John’s, based in Cheyenne, Wyoming, has more than 400 franchises in 25 states.