Waymon Hudson

Want some fries with that, faggot?

Filed By Waymon Hudson | September 17, 2008 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: ACLU, Kentucky, McDonalds

The ACLU has filed a complaint against a Louisville, Kentucky McDonalds after an employee at the restaurant called two gay men and their friends "faggots" and a series of other anti-gay slurs. The group was visiting Louisville for the weekend from Indianapolis, Indiana. The ACLU is filing the complaint with the Louisville Human Relations Commission since the city has a local human rights ordinance which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public accommodations such as restaurants.

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Ryan Marlatt, Teddy Eggers, and three other friends had stopped for lunch at a McDonald's restaurant on East Market Street on July 26, 2008 while visiting Louisville for the weekend. While they waited for their food to be prepared, an employee behind the counter referred to them as "faggots" to another employee. Marlatt and Eggers then approached the cashier, said they didn't come to the restaurant to be insulted, and asked to speak with a manager. As they waited for the supervisor on duty to appear, the employee who had called them "faggots" started arguing with them, repeatedly calling them "faggots" in front of other customers and calling one of them a "cocksucker" and "bitch."

The full account after the jump.

"Nobody should be treated the way my friends and I were at that McDonald's," said Eggers of Indianapolis, Indiana. "When we finally got to speak with a supervisor, she said she didn't see what the big deal was. I couldn't believe what was happening."

The supervisor on duty refused to refund the group's purchase, claiming that only the restaurant's general manager could authorize a refund. Marlatt said he attempted several times in the following weeks to contact both the general manager of the McDonald's and the corporate offices. But when he filed reports with a corporate customer service number for McDonald's, Marlatt said, he never received any sort of response, and every time he called the McDonald's where the incident took place the staff hung up on him.

"It may just be a few dollars for a Big Mac and some fries, but if I'm going to spend my hard earned money anywhere I should be able to do so without being verbally abused," said Marlatt. "The original name-calling was bad enough, but the fact that McDonald's refuses to do anything to make this right just adds injury to the insult."

The pair did say that they appreciated that one employee, a cashier, did try and help:

"The cashier was the only person behind the counter who seemed to get that this was wrong, and she was trying to get the woman who was calling us names to stop," said Eggers. "We really appreciated that she was at least trying to do the right thing when nobody else would."

Nothing like getting harassed while just trying to get a bite to eat. Like the ACLU said: I'm NOT "Loving it."

The pair are asking for an apology, a refund of the 28 dollars they spent on the McDonald's meal, and appropriate disciplinary action for the employees involved. One has to wonder why the usually gay-friendly chain has not yet responded...

You can read the complaint here.


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A woman was the one who verbally abused them? Anyone catch the sweet irony of her gratuitous use of the word "bitch" and "cocksucker"? Haha, this is almost as hilarious as it is sad.

Melanie Davis | September 17, 2008 1:33 PM

"Internalised Sexism", the new movie by Mel Brooks. I would make sweeping generalisations about the breeding and socio-economic status of such a person(s) based upon their geographic location, but that might be as bad as her name calling.

Thank God[dess(es)], that I wasn't one of the abused; I wouldn't have been able to handle that with such restraint and class. (Somebody would have found their head in the fryer.) Kudos to them!

If one were really upset about this, one would point out that the full address (420 East Market Street, Louisville, KY 40202) of the McDonald's in question is listed on page two of the formal complaint.

One could also mention that the phone number of the McDonald's in question is (502)589-3753.

Not that I would do that, of course.

Wow - just last weekend, we had a group of teens here in Iowa using slang and slurrs, and when chased away, they came back throwing bricks. I thought we were done with all this. Legislatures discriminate, not regular people, right?

Okay, sarcasm aside, there is part of me that is surprised when things like this happen. I have never really understood racism, homophobia, or other isms and ias. Not deep down, anyway. Intellectually, I get it, but emotionally I am just not keyed that way.

I do pray that I am never in that store, 'cause I might have to go in drag and whoop it up just for her! And while I would feel better personally, I would only "prove" to her what bad people we all are, so i just had better stay away!

What's doubly unfortuate about the incident is that such conduct should be immediate cause for firing and apology even if it weren't prohibited by laws/ordinances like the one in Louisville. It's called treating the customer, any customer, or anyone who is a guest in the establishement, with dignity and respect.

That's exactly what I thought too, Don.

Melanie Davis | September 17, 2008 2:42 PM

Let's stage an eat-in! Get a group of queery-queer-queers and go down there and all order the cheapest shit on the menu (pies?), then stay for hours. Maybe pass out literature. Gay tracts! Bring the kiddies and friends, not be too loud, but definitely be OUT.

Eh? What thinks ye all?

I've been noticing some of the new McDonald's commercials looks like they seem to be introducing "Gansta Food" into their menues, based on the customers they seem to be targeting. It might be a mindset that is seeping into their employees as well.

Melanie Davis | September 17, 2008 3:41 PM

I don't watch TV, but what the hell is "Gangsta Food?" Do you mean old-time Chicago Italian-style Gangstas' lasagne, pastrami, and penne, or are you making reference to African-American soul food in the menue? I'm just trying to figure out what kind of shock to have. Care to clarify?

It's not really the food, but they are now marketing it to people that have the "ghetto gangsta" look to them. I find it demeaning to Latino people because they all appear to be Latino. McDonalds seem to demean minorities simply by how they use them in their commercials. I just don't like their commercials. Never have.

Melanie Davis | September 17, 2008 4:31 PM

I'll have to check them out. Mebbe on Youtube.

Worst of all, they misrepresent a minority. Latino's, as the average ignorant American would like to believe, are not perceived under a geographical context, but rather a racial one. The expectation is the indigenous/zambo look, which only represents a fraction of Hispanics. Of course, you'll be hard-pressed to find any American whose view of Hispanics transcends that of the stereotypical indigenous Mexican or Puerto Rican. Diversity, as defined by Hispanic's status as an ETHNICITY, is completely crossed out.

Heck, what they label as Latins here has NO resemblance whatsoever to the actual Hispanic man. It's an awfully stereotypical and shortsighted representation.

The unfortunate part of this episode is that such treatment of customers ought to be punished, apologies accepted, and refund/compensation paid even if there were not specific human rights measure as exists in Louisville. It's called "respect".

So I'm certainly not condoning or excusing what happened, or MacDonalds generally when I observe further that I'm not aware of any kind of pattern of such conduct/treatment of LTBT customers regionally or nationwide. Not, for example, like that which sparked litigation and reform Denny's experienced several years ago. I don't know if the store in question was company owned or a franchise operation, and it really ought not to make a difference insofar as an appropriate corporate MacDonald's is concerned. But from what's happened so far I don't think the beginnings of a nationwide move against MacDonalds should be anywhere near the planning stage at this point.

Melanie Davis | September 17, 2008 9:21 PM

Ooh, Ooh, and if we stage an eat-in, we can order the "Faggot Fries," 'cause the French just aren't gay enough!

Seriously, if anybody is interested, just email me. mel(dot)artemisia(at)gmail(dot)com I think I might go alone, anyway.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 17, 2008 11:36 PM

Firstly Melanie, I am going to gmail this blog to good friends of mine in Louisville. There is a considerable Gay community in town and this is a public restaurant. The local community should respond with you and deal with this locally first.

Part of basic training of any employee dealing with the public is to not make comments about customers. The "supervisor" in question is inept, probably knows it, and won't admit to a mistake. This does not rise to the level of corporate discrimination, but managerial sloppiness. The turnover of employees in fast food restaurants is so high, and the frustration of the employees is often so great, that my heart goes out to these people. Now that nearly two months has passed I imagine both the supervisor and the offending employee are gone, but even so, the apology (unlike the tomatoes) never will get stale.

Since it's my town, and since I once managed a McD's, I'd better comment.

The people insulted are doing it the right way. They're using the local law, as outlined, by going to the Human Rights Commission. If the truth is as outlined here, they will win easily. Our local government and HR commission members are fairly liberal.

As for McDonald's, the stores here are owned by the Gatti family, who were one of the first franchisees of McDonald's. The first one they opened here was in 1957. I wouldn't call the Gattis particularly enlightened; they're pretty conservative people. Still, they have plenty of GLBT people working in their stores here; just not at the East Market store. I'd be curious to know whether the store employee still works for McD's - I rather doubt he has a future there, nor does his manager.

Weird.

It's even weirder considering the working conditions and lack of living wage that these folks earn (and possibly the queers, that's not mentioned here).

Alex, I am not sure why you find this unusual. Since the workers are low-wage, they have little investment in their job which in turn gives them little reason to adopt an enlightened position which may go against their grain.

And considering the workers occupy a low socio-economic status, some of the individuals may well seek to push around someone lower down in society's pecking order (at least in their eyes). In this case it is gays. In other cases it may be blacks or hispanics or women who get disparaged. This situation wouldn't be the first time that someone has tried to elevate themselves by harassing others.

Having been a retail manager myself, I agree with Robert and Polar here. This is not a corporate policy/administration problem, it's clearly an employee misbehavior problem and should be dealt with as such. That said, I'm frankly amazed that McDonald's has not been more responsive here.

When I had a similar (though not quite as blatant...I was called "Sir" repeatedly, even after correcting the person) issue years ago at a local Dunkin' Donuts, I contacted their corporate office through their website and the response to my complaint was very quick, about two days. While they would not tell me the specific action taken (nor would I expect them to), I was told that the problem was addressed and corrective was taken.

When I returned to that DD weeks afterward, I was treated with respect and as any other female customer could expect to be. The change was definite and noticeable (to me at least), and indicated to me that someone, probably the franchisee, had been read the riot act by corporate.

My suggestion here for anyone in such a situation is twofold: First, if you get no satisfaction from the store's management, contact the corporate office, first by phone if you can, second, or if you are unable to contact them or get satisfaction by phone, through the customer comment section of their website (just about every major retail corporation including restaurants has one and they are carefully monitored).

Also, if the company in question is owned by a bigger corporation, such as Burger King and KFC which are owned by Pepsi, don't hesitate to take the next step up and contact the parent company if you don't get satisfaction. The higher up the ladder you go, the more concerned about public image and bad press they are.

If you exhaust your options in this regard and still haven't gotten satisfaction, there's also the option of going public. Contact your local, state, and federal LGBT rights orgs, and shoot a call to your local newspaper. You'd be amazed at what even just one well-placed news story can do to turn things around for you on something like this.

{Also, if the company in question is owned by a bigger corporation, such as Burger King and KFC which are owned by Pepsi, don't hesitate to take the next step up and contact the parent company if you don't get satisfaction. The higher up the ladder you go, the more concerned about public image and bad press they are.}

Becky, I need to point out that Pepsi no longer owns any restaurant chains. They spun off their captive restaurant division into an independent company, called Yum! Brands, about 10 years ago, which has grown from the original KFC-Pizza Hut-Taco Hell to also include A&W and Long John Silver's. They also operate some Wendy's, Burger King, and Arby's franchises. Their corp office and test kitchens are in Louisville. They're a Fortune 200 company.

Burger King is a Fortune 1000 company, publicly traded on the NYSE.

One facet of this story that hasn't been mentioned yet is that this McD location is right next door to Tryangles, a neighborhood, bear-type gay bar. The next intersection west, and katty-cornered across it, sits The Connection, one of the largest gay discos in Louisivlle, and which is famous for its drag shows.

So, working in one of the gayest parts of town, the employees at this restaurant should all know how to behave around gay people, including drag queens.

I have been to this McDonald's several times, and sometimes my visit is OK, but about as often as not I get very poor service here, and I now tend to avoid it. As other commenters have said, there is obviously a serious management problem at this store.