A suburban Chicago waitress is claiming she lost her job for wearing a bracelet associated with the Tea Party.
Megan Geller, 23, said a couple she served at the Outback Steakhouse in Crystal Lake, Ill., was offended by her bright yellow bracelet bearing the phrase "Don't Tread on Me."
She said she told the customers her mother, Tonya Franklin, gave her the bracelet after Franklin received it at a Tea Party event. She said it was the last three words that enraged the couple, which promptly asked for the manager. But the chief legal officer of the Tampa-based restaurant chain said Geller was fired for her inattention to diners that evening.
"Megan Geller was not let go because of her Tea Party bracelet," Joseph Kadow said in a statement to Chicago's Northwest Herald. "On the night in question two separate tables complained about her lack of attention."
Protesters waving American flags and yellow "Don't Tread on Me" banners rallied in support of the young waitress, saying that the restaurant had violated Geller's free speech rights. Conservative commentators took up her cause.
"They stirred up the wrong hornet’s nest and messed with the wrong mama," Geller's mother said at the protest Saturday, according to the Herald. "When mamas get mad, mamas get to work."
Despite actually wearing her politics on her arm, Geller insisted she "didn't want to talk politics at work" and so feigned ignorance when customers asked her about the bracelet's meaning.
She said she wore the bracelet “for months” with no objection from restaurant management and was never once asked to remove it.
"She was not fired because a customer complained about her bracelet,” Kadow said. “That would have simply been handled by asking her to take off the bracelet."
Documents from the Illinois Department of Employment Security provided by Geller state that she was fired for misconduct. Outback so far has not challenged her claim for unemployment benefits, for which she is eligible.
According to documents from the state agency: “The evidence shows the claimant was discharged from [Outback Steakhouse] because they received a couple complaints from customers since she was wearing a bracelet with a political point of view. Since the claimant’s action, which resulted in her discharge was not deliberate or willful, the claimant is not ineligible for benefits.”
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