An Applebee’s restaurant in Rice Lake, Wisconsin has agreed to keep on a gay server who resigned after he was threatened with a firing over “bad publicity” from an incident in which the server was beaten with a two-by-four piece of lumber by the husband of another employee. According to LGBT newspaper The Wisconsin Gazette, Apple American Group CEO Greg Flynn intervened on behalf of the employee, overruling the management of the Rice Lake franchise.
According to the Gazette, Timothy Phares was told not to return to work by restaurant management after Phares was savagely attacked by Rien Hendricks, the husband of fellow server Shannon Hendricks on March 17. The manager told Phares that there had been too much “bad publicity” around the incident that they did not want associated with the restaurant. Phares had been previously threatened with a write-up over a run-in with customers who hurled anti-gay epithets, at which point he handed in his two weeks’ notice, a decision he later reversed.
Flynn intervened and Phares was allowed to return to work, but he does not expect to stay long. He said that he does not feel safe on the job. Restaurant manager Tara Steinberg has refused to take action against Shannon Hendricks, who drove her husband to the Perkins restaurant parking lot that was the scene of the attack, then sat and watched as her husband exited the vehicle with the board and shouted, “Fucking faggot I’m going to kill you!” before striking Phares in the head and face.
Phares suffered multiple facial and skull fractures, most of which will require surgically implanted metal plates to heal. Phares’ sister, Krista Kathrine Phares said she heard her brother’s head smack the pavement when he fell. Phares remembers nothing about the incident except waking up in pain in the hospital.
Several witnesses observed the attack from inside the restaurant and were questioned by police. Rien Hendricks, 36, was taken into custody and charged with substantial battery intended to inflict bodily harm, a Class 1 felony. He faces fines of up to $10,000 and up to three and a half years in prison.
The Gazettereported that Hendricks has prior convictions for theft, false representation and sale of marijuana.
Raw Story spoke with Applebee’s spokesperson Dan Smith, who hastened to distance the corporation from the actions of individual franchisees.
“I just want to be clear about this is a franchise owned and operated location,” Smith said. “I’m speaking on behalf of the brand.”
Smith insisted that Phares was never officially fired from the Rice Lake location. He also said that until Shannon Hendricks is named by the police in the investigation into the incident, restaurant management is under no obligation to take action against her, regardless of her purported role in the attack.
He forwarded a statement that read, “This very unfortunate personal situation involving two of our franchisee’s employees occurred during their free time and entirely away from the restaurant. The husband of one employee has been charged by police with felony assault. The police have informed us that this individual’s wife, who works at the restaurant, has not been charged and is not a subject in the investigation. The employee who was attacked is still employed with the franchisee. Although he had voluntarily resigned prior to the incident, the franchisee encouraged him to remain employed and he accepted that offer. Our franchisee continues to monitor the investigation and if there are any further developments related to any of its employees, it intends to evaluate the information and act accordingly.”
[Ed. note: Dan Smith was incorrectly identified as a spokesman for Apple America, Inc. in an earlier draft of this piece. Raw Story regrets the error. This story has been updated to more accurately reflect Phares' employment situation.]
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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