A manager of a Yankton, SD Taco John’s restaurant forced a gay teen worker to wear a demeaning nametag during his shift.
Sixteen-year-old Tyler Brandt has been working at the restaurant since earlier this year, and told Keloland Television that his manager was constantly “agitated and verbally abusive” toward him.
“I’ve been very vulnerable and I’ve been allowing him to say things to me that shouldn’t be said, and after a while I was just worried about being terminated from my position at Taco John’s,” Brandt said.
One day, the abuse was taken to a new level when the manager called the teen into his office and said that he had a special nametag for him to wear. While, normally, nametags exist to let customers know the names of employees, this particular nametag contained a disgusting slur: “Gaytard.”
“He pulled me into the office and gave me a nametag that read ‘Gaytard’ on it and asked me to wear it. 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,” Brandt said.
He tried to remove the demeaning label, but his manager made him put it back on — and took steps to ensure that customers would see it. “I would always stay behind the till so they couldn’t see the name tag, 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 explained.
After discussing the situation with his partner and friends, Brandt quit his job the next day.
“After I handed them over my uniform, they really didn’t say anything, they just said ‘okay’ and when we went to walk out, he lifted out his hand and said ‘Nametag?’ as though he deserved to have that name tag after his son labeled me,” Brandt said.
South Dakota currently has no laws that explicitly protect Brandt from this sort of discrimination, as there is nothing on the books that protects people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, nor does it address hate crimes of that nature.