A 16-year-old Yankton, South Dakota, fast-food worker says he was subject to discrimination by his manager when he was handed a nametag that read, “Gaytard.”
Tyler Brandt says that his manager at Taco John’s had frequently verbally abused him and discriminated against him, even before the incident involving the nametag.
"I've been very vulnerable, and I've been allowing him to say things to me that shouldn't be said," Brandt explained. "And after a while, I was just worried about being terminated from my position at Taco John's."
The harassment continued until the day that Brandt’s manager called him into his office to give him the insulting nametag.
"He pulled me into the office and gave me a nametag that read, 'Gaytard,' on it and asked me to wear it,” Brandt said. “So I put it on because I didn't want to upset him, and I felt that if I did do anything to upset him, it would cause me to lose my job because he'd be looking for ways to fire me.”
Even though Brandt attempted to take it off, the manager allegedly forced him to wear it the entire day in front of the customers.
"I would always stay behind the till so they couldn't see the nametag," Brandt 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."
Brandt says he quit the next day at the recommendation of his partner and friends.
“After I handed them over my uniform, they really didn't say anything. They just said, 'OK,' and when we went to walk out, he lifted out his hand and said, 'Nametag?' as though he deserved to have that nametag after his son labeled me.”
Now, Brandt is actively searching for a lawyer to take action against his former employer, and while the manager has refused to comment on the matter, Taco John’s CEO Jeff Linville released a statement.
“At Taco John’s, we believe everyone should be treated with dignity and respect,” said Linville in the statement. “We take any accusation of workplace harassment very seriously. The type of discrimination that reportedly took place recently in the Yankton, South Dakota restaurant is deplorable. Such actions will not be tolerated by our company. Taco John’s is committed to doing all we can to make certain nothing like this happens again in any of our restaurants.”
Some have questioned the authenticity of the nametag, noting that anybody could have placed a label with the word “Gaytard” on his nametag. But Brandt maintains that his story is true. Furthermore, as noted by the Huffington Post, Yankton Taco John manager John Scott admits the tag is real.
“From what I understand, they were all joking around," Scott said. "Everyone has a nickname here, and he wanted a nickname. [Gaytard is] what he picked for a nickname. He wasn’t forced to wear the name tag. He asked the manager to make that name tag for him. He handed it to him. He didn’t tell him he had to wear it. He put it on himself and created the situation. He said the manager forced him to do it. The manager didn’t force him to do anything.”