A gay South Dakota teen is raising awareness on social media after enduring months of discriminatory harassment from a manager at his fast food restaurant job, who allegedly forced him to wear a name tag that read “GAYTARD.”
16-year-old Tyler Brandt filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission this week, claiming that the manager of Taco John’s in Yankton had been looking for reasons to fire him based on his sexual orientation. On June 23, Brandt claims the manager forced him to wear the “GAYTARD” name tag in full view of customers.
Brandt says he wore the name tag because he feared being fired, though he resigned the following day. He explained in an open letter posted by the ACLU, adding that the manager also called him “faggot,” among other slurs:
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.
Speaking with the Argus Leader, John Scott, a manager at the franchised Taco John’s location, said Brandt has fabricated much of the story and originally asked a manager to make the name tag for him to wear.
In response to the allegation, Brandt said “Why would I want to do something that insults who I am?”
Taco John’s International CEO Jeff Linville released a statement Wednesday, saying that Taco John’s intends to fully cooperate with the EEOC’s investigation. Linville says that because this particular location is a franchise location, and that “the decision whether to discipline the franchisee may only be made when it is legally concluded that a law has been violated by the franchise owners.”
Linville also sympathized with Brandt, adding: ““We think what happened to Tyler is deplorable, and this is a chance for Taco John’s International to make it right.”
In the meantime, the ACLU has launched a Tumblr asking people to submit positive messages of encouragement for Brandt.