A New Jersey resident claims she lost her job at an Applebee's Neighborhood Grill + Bar because she asked a bar customer to leave after other patrons complained about his anti-Muslim tirade.
Amanda Breaud alleges in a lawsuit filed this week that she was harassed by her co-workers and managers after she removed a customer from an Applebee's in Middletown after several families complained about the person's loud comments against Muslims.
One customer reported hearing the bar patron describing Muslims as "disgusting" and saying that most are "terrorists," according to the suit filed in Monmouth County superior court.
The customer allegedly told Breaud that she viewed Applebee's as a family restaurant and that if nothing were done to stop the bar patron's rant, she would call the police.
Employed as a supervisor at the restaurant and another New Jersey Applebee's, Breuad claims that after getting complaints from two other families, she asked the man to leave the restaurant.
According to the suit, Breaud was thanked for her action by other patrons, including one who left a message of gratitude on their receipt, writing: "Thank you for standing up to hate and racism - thank you for your service."
Breaud's handling of the incident did not go over well with another employee who had been serving the ejected customer and lost out on tips from a regular, the complaint alleges. Breaud was also reprimanded by her manager, who told her she should have moved the customers who had complained about the man's conduct further away from the bar, the suit says.
The manager eventually fired Breaud, who claims she was wrongfully terminated and that she's been harassed since the incident.
"The retaliation experienced by our client has no place in a civilized society, and Applebee's must be held to account for its failure to oppose racism in its restaurants and for violating our client's rights," Breaud's attorney, Christian McOmber, a partner at McOmber & McOmber stated. "We are proud of Ms. Breaud for her courage in standing against racism and in exposing the unacceptable conduct of Applebee's Restaurants."
Ed Doherty, chairman and CEO of Doherty Enterprises, which owns the Applebee's restaurant, denied that Breud was let go because of the incident and said she was dismissed after failing to show up for work.
"We take these accusations very seriously. We can confirm that these allegations are not true. The team member failed to come to work, and the separation had nothing to do with the alleged guest interaction. We are proud that our Applebee's restaurants serve the community as an inclusive place where neighbors can come together, and that extends to both our guests and our dedicated team members," Doherty said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.
Applebee's offered a like statement. "We take claims such as these very seriously. The allegations made are in direct contrast with the values we and our franchisees uphold every day. The local Franchisee who owns and operates this restaurant is fiercely committed to maintaining a safe and inclusive environment for their team members and guests. As a company, we also take proactive measures with franchisees and company team members to make trainings available to ensure that Applebee's restaurants are a place where all feel welcome and respected," a company spokesperson emailed.
There are 1,804 franchise and company-owned Applebee's restaurants across the 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and 13 other countries. The casual-dining brand is franchised by subsidiaries of Dine Brands Global, one of the world's biggest full-service restaurant companies.