A gay South Dakota teen who was allegedly forced to wear a homophobic name tag while working at a restaurant is raising awareness about discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
Tyler Brandt, 16, filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Taco John’s in Yankton where he worked.
He claims that the manager had been looking for reasons to fire him based on his sexual orientation and was forced to wear a name tag reading “gaytard” in front of the customers, Queerty reports.
Brandt wore the name tag because he was afraid of being fired, but quit the next day. In an open letter posted by the American Civil Liberties Union, Brandt says the manager also called him other derogatory names, including “faggot”:
Every time I had to help a customer, I tried to stand so that it was hidden by the register. But that didn’t really make much difference because the manager kept calling me “gaytard” really loudly in front of customers for the rest of my shift: “Hey, gaytard, help this customer!” and “Take out the trash, gaytard!” It was extremely humiliating.
The ACLU said in a statement to The Huffington Post that Taco John’s violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, as well as the South Dakota Human Rights Act.
Brand and the group launched a petition calling on the fast-food chain to publicly apologize along with a campaign on social media, titled “Taco John’s Called Me a ‘Gaytard.’” Many have shared photos of themselves holding signs with slurs that have been used against them.
"No one should have to face bullying and discrimination in their workplace or elsewhere,” the petition says.
The chain issued a statement on Facebook regarding the alleged incident, saying:
We at Taco Johns are deeply concerned about the reported incident in Yankton, and we share the belief with Tyler that discrimination is wrong, wherever it takes place. Please understand, however, that we do not control day to day operations of our franchisees, or their personnel decisions. We will do everything we can to minimize the possibility that incidents of the nature alleged do not occur anywhere in our franchise system.