Brittany could feel anger boil inside her. How could someone be so rude? She never asked for this.
It also wasn’t as if they were being nasty in a quiet way – they were trying to get her to agree with them and go along? The situation turned worse when she went to her boss and was told to “suck it up.”
Brittany Spencer had been working as a waitress for the past two years and she thought she had seen it all.
Every kind of person came and went through Fat Joe’s Bar & Grill in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. And when an elderly couple walked through the doors, she didn’t think anything of it… at first.
However, when they took their seats, their expressions changed. Straight away, Brittany knew they were going to be difficult.
The couple looked around the diner with disgust slapped on their faces, as if they had just stepped into their worst nightmare. Fair enough, this wasn’t a Michelin star restaurant but the food was good.
Brittany dismissed her first impressions. She knew she could cheer them up with her bubbly personality.
But she had no idea how wrong she was. She approached and offered them menus. There wasn’t even a hello back as she handed them menus. The woman scrunched her nose like she smelled something awful. This was going to be a difficult table.
She walked away but when she turned around, she saw the couple was pointing and laughing at another customer in the corner of the diner.
The target of their bile was a regular and very pleasant customer. What was their problem? Little did Brittany know she was about to find out.
The couple was deep in conversation and unaware that Brittany was standing right behind them, waiting on another table.
Brittany’s ears perked up and she listened in to their conversation. The words that flowed out made Brittney’s stomach launch into her throat. How could they say something like that? It was beyond wrong.
As Brittany came to them to take their order, they asked her what thought about the “other customer”.
They asked Brittany if she thought it was as disgusting and wrong as they clearly did, even questioning why they would let “someone like that” into the restaurant. Their old faces were filled with nothing but vile judgment.
“Sorry, but I can’t serve you. And I don’t agree with what you said,” she told them before walking away.
However, she couldn’t just leave it at that and asked her manager if the table could be assigned to another employee instead. But things were about to get even more twisted.
Her manager refused, essentially telling her that she could “suck it up or go home”.
Brittany knew she couldn’t serve the table with customers who held such horrible opinions on a human being, not to mention making one of their regulars feel uncomfortable. So she grabbed her bag and stormed out the door. But the repercussions of her actions were about to come back to bite her…
That evening Brittany shared what had happened on Facebook.
People responded, applauding Brittany for standing up for herself, and some even called out the diner where the event took place. As she shut up her laptop and nestled into her bed, Brittany let out a sigh of relief. Everyone, it seemed, was on her side.
The next day, management told Brittany she was fired! Bursting with anger, she grabbed her laptop and went straight to Facebook.
She updated everyone on the disgusting development. The reactions were explosive. “But I’ll always choose my morals over money. See ya!” She concluded. But the owners of the diner had a very different opinion.
The co-owner of the diner commented that Brittany was fired because she refused to do the job she was hired for.
In all her years in the industry, she said she had heard plenty of conversations she didn’t agree with herself, but you just get on and do your job. Their “neutral” stance, however, didn’t calm the stormy waters.
Brittany, and others, said that allowing hate speech to occur in your establishment without any response was turning a blind eye — which she sees as the same as saying the hateful things oneself.
But Brittany still thought she had made the right decision. As for the current situation and ideals of the diner?
Brittany finished up her viral Facebook post with: “Please feel free to leave a review on their Facebook page, Fat Joe’s Bar and Grill.” They received so much hate that they had to temporarily take down their Facebook page – it is, however, up again.
Also, not long after the situation went viral, a couple of in-person protests forced the restaurant to call the police. Despite it all, they claim that the event hasn’t affected their day to day business and they will continue with the same moral approach. There was one key element that they conveniently left out, however, that many people overlooked.
Brittney acted with enough professionalism that she simply asked to switch tables – which is not a monumental request.
The boss’s reaction (“suck it up”) reveals the attitude towards their employee’s comfort, but what about being allowed to refuse service to customers trying to force opinions on someone who just wants to take their meal order? And what do the owners, Joe and Whitney Wallander, have to say?
“Everybody has their opinions, everybody is entitled to their opinions,” said Whitney, co-owner of Fat Joe’s, in an interview with CBS.
Whitney also says that she and her management team made the decision to send Brittany home for the day, but hadn’t actually fired her for refusing to serve the group of customers.
Before the staff meeting that Sunday morning, other employees at the restaurant showed the Wallenders screenshots of the post Brittney had written about the incident on Facebook.
Although the post did not directly reference Fat Joe’s, Tad Wallender said that Brittany’s Facebook profile listed Fat Joe’s as her place of work. This, he said, tied the post and the restaurant together. And they couldn’t have that.
Tad and Whitney didn’t take kindly to being publically called out on Facebook. After all, every establishment has a reputation to uphold.
Tad was concerned that Brittany’s post had changed the dynamic of the entire situation, claiming that it was very unprofessional on Brittany’s part. When Brittany arrived at the staff meeting, she was promptly fired.
“She decided she wanted to post stuff on Facebook about being sent home,” Whitney said. “And we just made the business decision that we can’t have employees that aren’t going to make us look good as an establishment.”
“We should be able to get along as a community,” says Whitney. “Everyone has different opinions, and I think it’s important that we know how to live with people that have different opinions than us.”
“We don’t take a stand on any conversation people have. We’re not going to impose anyone’s political beliefs, moral beliefs, ideals on any single person. We’re just here to serve food and drinks,” Tad told USA TODAY.
Even though the restaurant’s owners feel justified in their actions, others argue that they should have known better — especially in today’s political climate.
Discrimination has been in the political and media spotlight in recent months, and campaigns that hope to raise awareness about the issue are working harder than ever before. And, as a result, most netizens do not take kindly to any form of bullying.
After Brittany’s post, Fat Joe’s Facebook page turned into a “political battleground,” Tad said, forcing him to take it down. Brittany’s post wasn’t something he wanted the restaurant to be involved with. Then, just a day later, the business received over a dozen threatening emails.
According to the owners, Fat Joe’s always seeks to be neutral as well as respectful. According to them, both the guests who made the rude remarks and the person they were talking about are regular patrons at the restaurant.
And Tad said that there had never been a problem between the two groups before.
“If they felt they were being harassed, if they did, I apologize — that was never my intention,” says Brittany. I don’t want anyone to be harassed, but they do need to know that what they did was wrong.”
“Letting people say transphobic things is not remaining neutral,” Brittany said. “I didn’t make a scene. I wasn’t asking for them to be kicked out. I didn’t want to take a table.”
On its part, the restaurant seems to be doubling down after all the backlash. Tad said that the restaurant welcomes everyone, and this apparently also includes obnoxious customers who like to harass other patrons.
“If you want to walk in our front door and you want to have our food or drinks, watch TV, watch live music we provide, we’re going to serve you as best we can and make you happy to your standards,” Wallender told WTMJ.
Brittany said she harbors no ill will against the Fat Joe’s or the establishment’s owners, but she does hope that the response they received online will serve as a learning experience and that, in the future, they won’t let hate speech go unchecked.
“I hope this incident will open people’s eyes that hate like this is still occurring in 2019 and the idly standing by and spreading hate is just as bad as spreading it yourself,” she said. Do you think she did the right thing?