According to Timothy Phares (right) of Rice Lake, he and his sister were getting out of their car outside a Perkins restaurant on March 17, when coworker Shannon Hendricks and her husband, Rien, pulled up behind them in an SUV.
“[Rien] was getting out of his vehicle, and he said, ‘Fucking faggot, I’m going to kill you,’” Phares told the Wisconsin Gazette.
Mr. Hendricks reportedly struck Phares with a wooden two-by-four. In a written statement, Phares’ sister said she heard her his head hit the pavement.
The victim lost consciousness and doesn’t remember anything until waking up in the hospital. He suffered head and facial abrasions as well as multiple facial fractures that he says will ultimately require surgery to implant metal plates.
Rien Hendricks was taken into custody and charged with substantial battery, a Class 1 felony. Phares said the assault is not being prosecuted as a hate crime despite the homophobic slur both he and his sister reported hearing.
Phares doesn’t know what prompted the attack, though a local source tells the Gazette his “behavior” had something to do with it: A few days earlier, Phares was treated abusively by a customer who made several derogatory and anti-gay comments. Following company policy, he asked manager Tara Steinberg to assign someone else to the table.
The customer apparently called the next day and threatened never to come back unless Phares was fired. Steinberg said she would write him up, leading Phares to put in his two-weeks notice, which he later rescinded. After the attack by Hendricks, however, Steinberg said the restaurant didn’t want Phares back due to the amount of negative publicity the attack had attracted. (Shannon Hendricks has not only retained her position at Applebee’s, but has not been charged with her role in the attack.)
Greg Flynn, CEO of Apple American Group franchise, intervened and got Phares reinstated. Still, Phares doesn’t feel safe on the job as the husband of another co-worker threatened to kill him if he returned to Applebee’s.
Phares was also disappointed when Applebee’s—which has a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, and provides domestic partnership benefits—initially refused to remove homophobic comments from its Facebook page.
Since the Gazette story was published, the slurs have been taken down.