Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Outback Steakhouse Fires Tea Partier Over "Don't Tread On Me" Bracelet

A four-year employee of the "Outback Steakhouse" in Crystal Lake, Ilinois was fired on October 6, 2011 for wearing a "Gadsden" bracelet. The bracelet pictured below is the one she was wearing when she was terminated from her job.

This ordeal began with a customer in the restaurant questioning former Outback Steakhouse employee Megan Geller about the above bracelet she was wearing while at work. When Megan told this customer that this bracelet came to her via a TEA Party convention, the customer became upset and demanded to speak with Megan's manager.

Below is part of a statement that Megan's mother, Tonya Franklin, has on her facebook page about this ordeal:
My daughter was fired from Outback Steakhouse after customers (husband/wife) got very upset over her wearing this bracelet, the woman kept asking where she got it and what it meant and when my daughter said my mom got it at a TEA Party convention the woman flipped. "Those were the wrong two words to say to me. The Tea Party is ruining this Country and you need to get yourself educated little girl". After the woman was finished insulting her she said "box up my damn food, get me some more water and while you're at it get me your damn manager". She sent the owner over and he was at the table for close to 10 mins or longer and then he said he had 2 complaints tonight and that he was letting her go.

Megan appealed her termination with the Illinois Department of Employment Security and on November 10th she received a determination letter that specifically stated she was fired for the wearing of the bracelet. Coincidentally, November 10th also happens to be considered the "birthday" of the Marine Corps. The Gadsden flag is a symbol commonly associated with the Marine Corps.

The evening of November 11th, Veteran's Day, TEA Partiers gathered outside the Outback Steakhouse for a demonstration in protest of Megan's firing for wearing the "Don't Tread on Me" bracelet.

Quotes from Tonya Franklin during the protest (video below):
"The (Gadsden) bracelet is not a (statement of) a political point of view. My son is in the Marines. My husband is a 24-year veteran of the Air Force. It's a patriotic point of view and if you can be fired for that, you can be fired for wearing a lapel pin of a flag."

"I want an apology. She deserves an apology. She was 4 years with that company. She transferred from Carrabba's in Florida to Carrabba's in Virginia. Yes, she did. And then transferred here to Outback. There wasn't a Carrabba's close enough so they put her in The Outback. I worked for Outback when I was a kid. I have a problem with what they're doing. They say they stand for veterans. They're in there giving away 'Bloomin' Onions' to veterans. Well, where do you stand tonight? We've got proof. It's not our word against theirs. Even the state (of Illinois) agrees with us. She was fired over that bracelet."

Quotes from Megan Geller during the protest (video below)

"My managers have seen the bracelet in the past. They've even acknowledged it and asked me about it and never asked me to take the bracelet off."

I'm actually standing out here to stand up for their (former co-workers) rights and my rights and everyone else's rights. That it's not right to be fired over my political view which I didn't intentionally force upon anybody. I wasn't talking politics. I actually was supporting my brother who is (in the) Marine Corps. My step-father who is retired 24 years Air Force (and) all of my friends that I've grown up with on military bases who are now in the Army and etcetera.

So, the fact that they're telling me that I'm taking food from their children's mouth tonight, really breaks my heart because I'm standing out here for their rights. And, I won't have my rights violated. I won't do it. I don't care if I'm 72, if I'm 14 or if I'm 23, which I am, I will not stand-down and I will not allow this to happen to anyone ever again.


Megan was interviewed by Simon Conway on the Simon Conway Show on Newsradio 1040AM WHO on Monday. Megan's Mother, Tonya Franklin, was interviewed by Vicki McKenna for The Vicki McKenna Show on Newstalk 1130AM WISN on Monday about this situation. Both of these interviews are included in the video below, respectively.

From the Northwest Herald (emphasis added):
Documents from the Illinois Department of Employment Security provided by Geller state that she was fired for misconduct, but she should not have been denied unemployment benefits.

"The evidence shows the claimant was discharged from [Outback Steakhouse] because they received a couple complaints from customers since she was wearing a bracelet with a political point of view," according to documents from the state agency. "Since the claimant's action, which resulted in her discharge was not deliberate or willful, the claimant is not ineligible for benefits."

Outback did not challenge Geller's unemployment claim, or submit any information regarding her claim, Kadow said.

Read more from the Northwest Herald HERE.

It does appear as though Outback Steakhouse has replied (and denies) this story. This is an email, received by a reader, that was forwarded to the McHenry County Blog:
“Thank you for contacting the Outback Steakhouse website.

My name is Bob Irons and I am the Joint Venture Partner for Outback in the Chicago area which includes the Crystal Lake, IL location.

I am aware of the media story about a waitress who was allegedly terminated for wearing a tea party bracelet.

Please be assured that this story is not true. We have not terminated a waitress for wearing a tea party bracelet.

To learn more about Outback, please visit our website www.outback.com - Company Info / Operation Feeding Freedom / Thanks for Giving.

Thank you again for your feedback.


Bob Irons

Joint Venture Partner

In the interest of full-disclosure: I am friends with Tonya Franklin on facebook where we have communicated minimally about our mutual support for the TEA Party. We have never met in-person.

When I asked Tonya yesterday morning if there was anything else she thought I should know about this story, she responded with this comment:
Just that an Outback staff member left a message on my daughter's fb wall during a conversation with an active duty military member, I will quote "who cares about free speech" and they lied (to customers) about why we were protesting. Some were told my daughter was a liar, others were led to believe we were with Operation Homefront and were there for support of Outback and their support of Veterans.

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