An Ohio employee of Taco Bell has been fired, after a video showing him refuse to take a deaf customer's drive-thru order was posted online.
Brandon Washburn visited a Taco Bell on New Year's Eve. The ADA compliant message on the drive-thru instructs those with hearing disabilities to pull up to the window. It was there, Washburn had trouble.
Washburn tried showing the employees his phone with his order, but they refused to look at it. They instead tried to invite him inside to be served.
This is where the video starts.
The video shows Washburn at the drive-thru window of the restaurant. He is trying to get the employees attention to read his phone, where he's typed up his order.
The night manager opens the window, and hands him a message written on a piece of paper.
Washburn tries to show the employee his phone, when the employee responds,
"It's against company policy. I can't do it."
The manager then closes the window and walks away. A little bit later, he comes back and says he will be calling the police.
It was very upsetting.
The video was taken by Washburn's girlfriend in the passenger seat and uploaded to Facebook by his mother, Becky Rosemont Burch. It has been viewed over 1.5 million times.
In an interview with NBC News, she says,
"He has done this many times before at other restaurants, and has never had a problem."
The video went viral, extending beyond Facebook.
@wics_abc20 This is so wrong— Amanda Helm (@Amanda Helm)1546891579.0
@ABC7NY #Disgusting— Jodeci888 (@Jodeci888)1546860087.0
@FOX26Houston I think it’s not that he refused to serve him because of discrimination. It was more of not knowing h… https://t.co/G0InqjOi4c— Juuuust a bit outside. (@Juuuust a bit outside.)1546880246.0
The employee, Michael Brown, was fired, and Taco Bell has issued a statement that they are going to be retraining the employees of the restaurant.
"Taco Bell has a fundamental policy to respect all of our customers and employees, and we are committed to maintaining an environment free of discrimination or harassment."
Brown has spoken out since the incident. He's lost his job and has faced death threats since the video went viral.
As he describes it, he was trying to do the right thing.
"I wasn't just absolutely denying them, because I go through it every day… We tried our best to accommodate them, with them being deaf and none of us in there knowing sign language or having prior experience with it."
He goes on to explain that he asked the couple to come inside so he could ensure the order was correct and better assist them. There was an added element of safety to the situation, as Brown says the restaurant has been robbed at gunpoint through the drive-thru.
To some this just shows how better training is needed, while others feel it's no excuse.
@ABC7 Was the worker trained to handle these types of situations? Good this has been exposed so the Fast food chain… https://t.co/tJU7eEGt1S— Dark_Room_Perfume1129 (@Dark_Room_Perfume1129)1546811292.0
@snackpack210 @j_grixx @tacobell @Chipole okay but in the same article it says he refused for “safety reasons” mean… https://t.co/IpoRss4uoh— Stoney Joey (@Stoney Joey)1546816957.0
@snackpack210 @j_grixx @tacobell @Chipole typical, no valid counterpoints to make so just say its a troll. You’ve a… https://t.co/9RoAPOrasf— Stoney Joey (@Stoney Joey)1546820170.0
In the end, Brown is glad the video was shared.
"I do appreciate them doing that because it's going to allow my Taco Bell to improve - or, that Taco Bell to improve - but I wish they would at least put the full video out so the people could see I tried."
It hasn't been a great time for fast food companies. The age of smart phones has allowed videos to surface of extreme interactions between their customers and their employees, requiring the company to perform damage control.
Earlier this month, a McDonald's employee was forced to defend herself after a belligerent customer tried to assault her across the counter. And back in November, a viral video of a group of young men being told they had to pay up front at Chipotle had the internet on their side, until their dine and dash tweets were discovered.
We can only hope that eventually, these situations go from a normality to less than once in a blue moon.