Server in Wisconsin fired for refusing to serve anti-transgender customers

Posted at 12:40 PM, Oct 15, 2019

FOND DU LAC, Wisc. — A woman says she was fired from her serving job at a local restaurant after she refused to serve guests she says were making transphobic remarks.

Brittany Spencer worked as a server at Fat Joe's Bar & Grill in Fond du Lac for a few months. On Saturday night, she says some of the guests she was serving began making disparaging comments about gender identity while a transgender woman was in the bar.

"They were asking me if I thought it was disgusting and wrong and why we would let someone like that into the establishment," Spencer said. "To which I answered, no, I do not agree with that and walked away."

According to ownership at Fat Joe's, both groups are regulars at the bar.

Spencer says she went to her manager to ask if someone else could serve the table because she didn't feel comfortable.

"[My manager] essentially told me to suck it up or go home," Spencer said. "To which I said, OK. I will leave."

Tad Wallender, one of the owners at Fat Joe's, says that despite what was said, his restaurant has a duty to serve all customers. Ownership with Fat Joe's also said that if an employee refused to serve a transgender person, they would send that server home for the same reason.

"We don't discriminate against anyone," Wallender said. "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 says since Spencer refused to serve the table, they sent her home for the night. He says they planned on having a conversation with her the next day about what happened.

But before their conversation, Spencer took to Facebook to sound off about what happened. Her post generated more than a dozen comments.

The next day, Spencer was told she was fired. So, she encouraged her followers to leave negative reviews on Fat Joe's Facebook page.

"If you feel this was wrong, leave a review on their business's Facebook page," Spencer said. "I was in awe by how many people were disgusted by this behavior and left comments to the point they deleted their Facebook page to keep the reviews from spreading."

Wallender says Fat Joe's deleted its Facebook page temporarily because the social media conversation had become more about politics than about the restaurant.

"It's people from New York, Kentucky, Texas, California who admit they've never been here before," Wallender said.

Wallender says he will only refuse service to a customer for legal reasons. Among them:: If a patron is over-served, if a patron is underage or if a patron causing a disturbance that requires the patron be escorted out.

"We are going to serve anyone in here as long as it's a safe environment," Wallender said. "I've been in the service industry for a good 15 years and I've heard hundreds of conversations I didn't agree with but it's a matter of fact of brushing it off and having to tough it out through your task. She took her moral beliefs and hey, everyone has their moral beliefs. I'm not going to hold that against anyone else. She refused to do a duty we hired her for. That's the bottom line in a nutshell. If you're not going to do your duty, you don't have to work that night. We'll just send you home."

But Spencer says there are certain things she just can't let go.

"Ignoring hate and ignoring people talking like that is not being neutral," Spencer said. "That's allowing hate to happen in your establishment and I didn't think that was appropriate so I left. Turning a blind eye to hate is just as bad as saying the hateful things in my opinion."

Spencer says she's filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

This story was originally published by Shaun Gallagher on WTMJ in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.