Use of Slur at Yankton Taco John’s Highlights the Need for Workplace Protections

Tyler Brandt just wanted some money for the summer. But what started as a summer job turned into a hostile work environment culminating in his resignation on Tuesday, June 24th.

According to Brandt, his manager called him into the office at the Yankton area Taco John’s during his shift on Monday night and handed him a nametag. The tag read “Gaytard,” which is a term combining the ableist slur “retard” with the descriptor of “gay.” Brandt alleges that the manager forced him to wear the nametag throughout his shift that night. The manager also allegedly called him the slur in front of customers, and yelled at him throughout the night. Brandt resigned on Tuesday morning, keeping the nametag for evidence.

Brandt is now working with the Center for Equality in Sioux Falls and the ACLU of South Dakota in finding legal representation, according to Thomas Christiansen, Vice President of the Center for Equality. “Tyler has made it clear to us that he is not looking for a large payout and just wants the manager to be held responsible so something like this doesn’t happen again,” Christiansen says.

South Dakota is one of 29 states where it is still legal to fire someone for being gay. On the federal level, workplace protections for sexual orientation and gender identity don’t yet exist, though President Obama has issued some executive orders making it illegal for federal contractors to discriminate on that basis. Heather Smith, of the ACLU of South Dakota, says, “Tyler’s story highlights the need for legal protections to prevent this type of discrimination from occurring in the future. What happened to Tyler is unacceptable and embarrassing for South Dakota.”

It is important to recognize that such discrimination in the workplace is common all across the United States, and happens in our own backyards. Christiansen says that South Dakotans can’t afford to ignore stories like this: “As community members we shouldn’t stand for this type of behavior. Don’t let this be another story swept under the rug. Stand up and speak out against this. It’s time to make a change.”

Brandt, for one, hopes such discrimination comes to an end: “I don’t think that any person has to put up with what has been going on. I don’t think that anybody should have to put up with any kind of discrimination. It’s not fair.”


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