An Ohio Taco Bell employee who was fired for refusing to serve a deaf customer is giving his side of the story.
Last week, as WWLP (Springfield, Massachusetts) reported at the time, a viral video surfaced showcasing a tense exchange at a Dayton Taco Bell. A deaf customer tried valiantly to place his order, while the employee steadfastly refused to help him.
“It’s against company policy, I can’t do it.”
The customer tried to show the employee his order on his phone, but the employee refused to work with him. The customer even threatened to call 911 if he didn’t get help, but eventually drove off.
The customer’s girlfriend, who recorded video of the exchange on her phone, posted the video on social media, where it quickly went viral. And after the exchange got the attention of Taco Bell’s management, the company was forced to issue a statement.
“The franchise owner and operator of this location has investigated this situation and the team member no longer works for their organization.”
Now, however, the fired employee is giving his side of the story, via WDTN-TV.
Michael Brown, who is African American, says he knows what it’s like to be discriminated against, because of the color of his skin. He says he was absolutely not trying to discriminate against the customer, later identified as Brandon Burch, just because of his disability.
“I know how it feels to be discriminated against. I don’t want anyone else to ever feel like that because I know how deeply disturbing it is.”
However, Brown says he doesn’t know American Sign Language and wasn’t trained in how to deal with deaf customers.
Of course, in the video, you can see that the customer tries to work around the communication barrier by using his cell phone to communicate via written text, but Brown refuses to open the drive-through window to take or even look at Brunch’s phone. There’s a reason for that, Brown says.
“We actually had someone pull a gun on us over nacho cheese so I’m not taking any chances.”
Brown says that he tried to invite Brunch and his girlfriend to come into the store to try to order – something he says he’s done for other drive-through customers who have trouble — but they weren’t having it.
Meanwhile, Taco Bell says that they are re-training all of the employees of that location. All except for Brown, who has been let go.
Brown says he is considering hiring an attorney to try to get his job back.