ACLU Not "Lovin' It;" Files Complaint With Louisville Human Relations Commission
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LOUISVILLE, KY -- After an employee at a McDonald's restaurant in downtown Louisville called a group of gay customers a series of anti-gay slurs, the American Civil Liberties Union is representing two of the customers in filing an official complaint with the city. Louisville law bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Ryan Marlatt, Teddy Eggers, and three other friends had stopped for lunch at a McDonald's restaurant on East Market Street on July 26, 2008 while visiting Louisville for the weekend. While they waited for their food to be prepared, an employee behind the counter referred to them as "faggots" to another employee. Marlatt and Eggers then approached the cashier, said they didn't come to the restaurant to be insulted, and asked to speak with a manager. As they waited for the supervisor on duty to appear, the employee who had called them "faggots" started arguing with them, repeatedly calling them "faggots" in front of other customers and calling one of them a "cocksucker" and "bitch."
"Nobody should be treated the way my friends and I were at that McDonald's," said Eggers of Indianapolis, Indiana. "When we finally got to speak with a supervisor, she said she didn't see what the big deal was. I couldn't believe what was happening."
The supervisor on duty refused to refund the group's purchase, claiming that only the restaurant's general manager could authorize a refund. Marlatt said he attempted several times in the following weeks to contact both the general manager of the McDonald's and the corporate offices. But when he filed reports with a corporate customer service number for McDonald's, Marlatt said, he never received any sort of response, and every time he called the McDonald's where the incident took place the staff hung up on him.
"It may just be a few dollars for a Big Mac and some fries, but if I'm going to spend my hard earned money anywhere I should be able to do so without being verbally abused," said Marlatt. "The original name-calling was bad enough, but the fact that McDonald's refuses to do anything to make this right just adds injury to the insult."
"Although their complaints have gone unanswered by McDonald's, Louisville has a law that protects people from this kind of treatment from any business," said Christine Sun, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project who is representing Marlatt and Eggers. "Even though they won't return Mr. Marlatt's phone calls, we hope the Human Relations Commission will convince them to finally respond to this. It shouldn't be considered a tall order to expect businesses to treat customers with basic human dignity."
Marlatt and Eggers say all they want is an apology, a refund of the 28 dollars they spent on the McDonald's meal, and appropriate disciplinary action for the employees involved. They added that they would like to see one employee — the cashier who originally handled their order — be commended. "The cashier was the only person behind the counter who seemed to get that this was wrong, and she was trying to get the woman who was calling us names to stop," said Eggers. "We really appreciated that she was at least trying to do the right thing when nobody else would."
The complaint can be downloaded from the case profile page at: