By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com June 26 2014 2:40 PM ET
A 16-year-old who worked at a fast-food restaurant in South Dakota says he was forced to wear a name tag that read "Gaytard," and he complied because he feared being fired.
Tyler Brandt said he worked at a Taco John's in Yankton, S.D., where the manager was known to be verbally abusive.
"He pulled me into the office and gave me a name tag that read 'Gaytard' on it, and asked me to wear it," Brandt told South Dakota TV station KELO. "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 after he tried to hide the name tag or avoid wearing it, Brandt said he was forced to wear it in front of customers. Sometimes the manager would call Brandt "Gaytard" in the presence of customers.
Brandt eventually quit his job, and he is looking for legal representation to take action against the restaurant.
While the establishment's manager did not provide a comment to KELO, Taco John's CEO Jeff Linville issued a statement saying the company believes everyone should be treated with respect and that such behavior would not be tolerated by the company.
"We take any accusation of workplace harassment very seriously," Linville said in the statement. "The type of discrimination that reportedly took place recently in the Yankton, South Dakota. restaurant is deplorable."
John Scott, the manager of the franchise, told the Yankton Press & Dakotan, that Brandt put this on himself.
“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.”
However, Brandt said Scott's account was inaccurate.
“Do you really think I’d want to go around making a mockery of who I am?” he asked. “It’s really irritating to think someone could believe I would want that label.”