A gay teen who was allegedly forced to wear a homophobic name tag while working at the fast-food chain Taco John's is now brandishing that very same name tag in a call for awareness and change.
Tyler Brandt, a 16-year-old from South Dakota, resigned from his position at Taco John's in Yankton in June after his manager allegedly made him wear a name tag reading "gaytard." Although a manager at the eatery claimed the incident was a joke that Brandt went along with, Brandt tells a different story.
"It wasn't my idea, and I never thought it was funny," he wrote for the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) Blog of Civil Rights. "It's a mean, ugly word that makes fun of both gay people and people with developmental disabilities, and I would never call myself a name like that."
The ACLU filed a discrimination charge Tuesday on Brandt's behalf with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the South Dakota Department of Labor. The group claims Taco John’s violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- legislation that prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin -- as well as the South Dakota Human Rights Act, they said in a statement to The Huffington Post.
“What happened to me was so incredibly humiliating,” Brandt said in a statement sent to HuffPost. “I just hope that telling people what happened to me can help make sure that no other Taco John’s employee will ever go through this kind of harassment again.”
Brandt and the ACLU also launched a petition demanding an apology from Taco John's along with a social media campaign on Tumblr. The campaign, titled "Taco John's Called Me a 'Gaytard,'" calls for others to share selfie photos with derogatory names that have been used against them.
The photos shared on the Tumblr page, with slurs like "dyke," "fag" and "terrorist," serve to enforce the overarching message behind Brandt's movement: "No one should have to face bullying and discrimination in their workplace or elsewhere."
Check out some of the powerful images below.