It's been an intense 24 hours for one Yankton teen who is now the face of a major claim of discrimination.
16-year-old Tyler Brandt is now receiving numerous calls for support, but also his share of skeptics.
When I first met with Tyler yesterday, he made it clear that he simply wanted his story of discrimination to be heard. Today, after seeing all the messages of support and criticism, he feels the first part of his goal has been reached.
On Wednesday, KELOLAND News first reported that Tyler had worked at Taco John's in Yankton for about a month when he says his manager, after weeks of verbal abuse, forced him to wear a nametag with a derogatory name attached. He says he wore it in front of customers and dealt with even more verbal abuse until he left at the end of his shift. Brandt says that he quit the next day but kept the nametag. Now, after his story has reached thousands, he is appreciative of the attention both good and bad.
"People are reaching out to me, and that means the world to me to know that some people are actually being affected by what I have to say. It's just absolutely amazing, I can never ask for anything more than that,” Brandt said.
Tyler tells me that he has taken on legal representation, but is being advised not to discuss the details of his plans at this time. I also reached out to Taco John's in Yankton again today, but they are still offering no comment.
A complaint has been filed with the American Civil Liberties Union regarding the allegations against Taco John's.
The executive director of the local ACLU, Heather Smith, issued this statement to KELOLAND News: Tyler's story highlights the need for legal protections to prevent this type of discrimination from occurring in the future. What happened to Tyler is unacceptable - and we should expect more from business leaders in our community.
The Vice President for The Center for Equality in Sioux Falls also issued a statement reading in part: This story has been receiving a lot of national attention and rightfully so. People are appalled at what this manager did. It is completely unacceptable and the manager should be held responsible for his actions. As community members we shouldn't stand for this type of behavior. It's time to make a change.