A Vermont restaurant worker lost his job after concerned people contacted the business to report posts he made to social media discussing sexual assault, which they considered revolting.
A viewer of necn brought the situation to the attention of our Vermont news bureau, and praised the downtown Burlington Mexican restaurant Bueno y Sano for its swift response to her concerns.
The ex-employee, whom necn is not identifying to avoid giving his remarks too much attention, made vulgar jokes about rape and mocked the #MeToo movement.
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That movement has people who have experienced sexual harassment or assault sharing their stories on social media.
In one post to Facebook, the fired worker said, “You think I care about your dumb sexual assault awareness?”
In another, he wrote, “You idiots need a special day on social media to celebrate you were touched inappropriately?”
Bueno y Sano confirmed in a statement to necn that it fired the man on Tuesday from its College Street location.
Additionally, the restaurant noted it supports awareness programs in the Burlington area.
The location’s owner, Will Lowry, thanked the concerned customers for bringing the matter to his attention, and said, “the views and opinions he expressed are unacceptable and run contrary to the founding principles of Bueno Y Sano.”
The eatery has a “people first” policy as one of its major principles, the statement explained, which sees ongoing training of employees.
The necn viewer who reported the offensive posts did not want to be identified, but said she appreciated the restaurant handling the situation seriously and promptly.
Community leaders engaged addressing sexual violence and harassment told necn they hope the whole country can move toward even more constructive conversations about those major issues.
“Women who do come out and share their stories that either get shamed or joked about is the exact culture and thought process that keeps them from talking to begin with,” said Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George. “If you a make a joke about the #MeToo movement, it feeds into the culture—and that’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid.”
“I think the most important thing is to believe survivors and to stand behind them and say, ‘I believe you,’” said Cathleen Barkley, the executive director of HOPE Works, which aims to end sexual violence through healing, outreach, prevention, and education. “Perpetrators depend on our silence, and they are stronger when we are silent. When we’re talking, it takes away a bit of their power.”
A situation similar to this week’s restaurant firing came up this summer at a different Vermont eatery after the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The South Burlington Uno Pizzeria & Grill promptly dismissed an employee who espoused white nationalist views, and the business condemned his remarks as entirely unacceptable.
At the time, the Vermont ACLU said in cases like these, workers’ free speech rights are generally not protected by the First Amendment.
“Private employers have more leeway to decide their codes of conduct,” said James Duff Lyall, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, drawing a distinction between a business’s policies on employee conduct and government suppression of free speech—which he explained would generally be protected.