Amanda Breaud is the former Applebee’s supervisor who is suing the restaurant chain on accusations of discrimination and retaliation. Breaud says that she was fired after asking a customer, who witnesses said had been making Islamophobic remarks at the bar, to leave the restaurant. The incident happened on May 13, 2019.
Breaud alleges in the lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey in January 2020, that the franchise location where the incident took place was a “hostile work environment where racism and bigotry were commonplace.” She claims that although other customers had reported feeling upset by the man’s comments, Breaud was still “berated” later by the store manager, who told her she had “no authority to tell customers at the bar to refrain from ‘discussing religion.'”
Applebee’s, meanwhile, insists that Breaud was fired for failing to show up for a scheduled shift. The franchise owner claims that Breaud’s termination was not connected to the confrontation at the bar.
The other defendants named in the lawsuit include the Applebee’s franchisee, the general manager, a senior manager, and the bartender who was involved in the May 2019 incident.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Lawsuit: An Applebee’s Patron Was Describing Muslims As ‘Disgusting;’ Other Customers Complained to Amanda Breaud & Asked Her to Intervene
Amanda Breaud explained in her lawsuit that on May 13, 2019, a customer sitting at the bar was attracting negative attention because of his comments. He was referred to in the filing as “Alex.”
“Alex” was reportedly heard saying that “Muslim people are disgusting,” that “most of them are terrorists,” and “if it were up to me, none of those motherf*ckers would be allowed in this country.” According to the Asbury Park Press, a news story about refugees was playing on television at the bar at the time.
Breaud said that another customer had complained to her about the man’s remarks, arguing that “such language and racist comments should not be tolerated” in a family restaurant. According to the lawsuit, the woman threatened to call the police on “Alex” if something was not done to make him stop. The woman added that the bartender was participating in the conversation and vocally agreeing with “Alex’s” statements.
Breaud said that on her way over to confront “Alex,” families at two other tables “directly complained to Plaintiff about the offensive conversation and pleaded with her to do something to end it.”
Breaud says she quietly asked the man to leave. The lawsuit alleges that “Alex became irate and yelled” but ultimately left the restaurant. Other customers praised Breaud for stepping in.
One customer left a note on a receipt that read, “To the Manager – Thank you for standing up to hate + Rascism. Thank you for your service.” The receipt was included in the lawsuit.
Breaud further explained in a letter to Applebee’s that an additional witness applauded and thanked her after “Alex” left and said, “I was just about to leave. I couldn’t listen to it anymore.”
2. Amanda Breaud Says the General Manager Criticized Her Decision & That She Should Have Asked the Offended Customers to Move away From the Bar
Amanda Breaud says that she received hostile treatment from the rest of the Applebee’s team after asking “Alex” to leave the bar. She alleges in the civil lawsuit that the bartender continuously complained about her in front of customers and that Breaud’s actions “were costing her money in the form of lost tips from regular customers such as Alex.”
Breaud says that later that night, she received a phone call from the general manager of the restaurant. She says the manager “berated her” for asking the man to leave. According to the complaint, Breaud says the manager informed her that what she should have done instead was ask the other customers, who had complained that “Alex” was offensive, to move further away from him.
The manager allegedly told Breaud that she did not have the right to tell a customer that he could not talk about religion at Applebee’s. In the lawsuit, Breaud’s attorneys argued that this “was an obvious attempt to minimize and downplay Alex’s blatantly racist and openly discriminatory conduct and behavior.”
Breaud filed a report with Applebee’s Human Resources department that same day, describing what had happened and the reprimand she had received later that night from the manager. She claims that the company did not respond to her complaint and failed to investigate.
3. Breaud Says She Experienced Retaliation & Was Fired One Week After the Incident
Amanda Breaud alleges in her lawsuit that she faced severe retaliation from her coworkers following the incident with “Alex.” She says that she suffered from insomnia and anxiety attacks “due to the Defendants’ failure to protect her from retaliation or to maintain a safe, non-discriminatory work environment.”
Breaud requested a transfer. Before going to work at the Middletown location, she had worked at a franchise in Tinton Falls and requested that she be allowed to go back there. But her request was denied. Instead, a new schedule was submitted that would have required her to work three days a week at the Middletown restaurant.
According to the lawsuit, Breaud refused this arrangement. She says she was discussing other possible solutions with Applebee’s Area Director, Sam Halim, when she was suddenly fired from the franchise on May 20.
Breaud says her manager accused her of failing to show up for a scheduled shift. Breaud’s attorneys described this claim as a “false and retaliatory accusation.” She says that she had asked another coworker to cover the shift because she had to deal with a family issue.
In a letter to Applebee’s following her firing, Breaud explained again what had happened that day and about the general manager telling her she should have asked the other patrons to move.
She wrote in part, “The ‘coaching’ was alarming to me. Asking guests who are offended (rightfully so) by derogatory remarks, to get up and move; does not WOW them. Imagine if the guests had pulled out their cell phones and recorded me telling them if they were ‘so offended’ they could move. That is not the message I want to send my guests. I want them to feel safe and leave WOWed.”
4. Amanda Breaud Says Bigotry Was ‘Commonplace’ at the Middletown Restaurant & That It’s Not In Her Character to Allow Derogatory Remarks
Amanda Breaud explained in the lawsuit that the incident on May 13, 2019, was part of a pattern of behavior at that Applebee’s location. She alleges that the senior manager, Troy Montanez, created a hostile environment and that bigoted and racist comments were “commonplace.”
Breaud claimed that Montanez had a habit of directing offensive remarks at restaurant staffers. The lawsuit included two alleged incidents: “For example, when an African-American employee’s uncle passed away, Defendant Montanez said, ‘well, that is one less black guy we have to worry about.’ On another occasion, Defendant Montanez called an employee ‘a f*cking retard’ in front of other staff members.”
Breaud explained to NJ Advance Media that in regards to “Alex’s” alleged inflammatory remarks about Muslims, staying silent would not have been in her nature. “I didn’t want anybody to think that is something our company stands for, or I’ll ever allow.”
She further explained to the Asbury Park Press that the issue is personal for her. “I’m a gay woman and I’ve been at the bar before or out in public and had people say things about me. A lot of my life I wish that someone would have stood up for me. Now that I’m able to stand up for myself, I want to stand up for other people.”
Her attorneys explained in a statement on their website, “As alleged in the complaint, the actions taken by Ms. Breaud should be celebrated, not punished. The retaliation experienced by our client has no place in a civilized society and Applebee’s must be held to account for its failure to oppose racism in its restaurants and for violating our client’s rights.”
Breaud and her attorneys are asking Applebee’s to reinstate her and provide her with back pay and benefits. The lawsuit also lists demands including compensatory and punitive damages, a request for the defendants to undergo anti-retaliation and anti-harassment training, and for the company to identify an “an appropriate professional” to investigate any future claims of harassment or discrimination.
5. The Applebee’s Franchise Owner Denies That Amanda Breaud’s Firing Was Connected to Her Asking the Customer to Leave the Restaurant
The Applebee’s franchise in Middletown, New Jersey, is operated by Doherty Enterprises. The CEO of the company, Ed Doherty, argued in a prepared statement that Amanda Breaud’s claim, that she was fired due to retaliation, was not accurate.
The statement reads, “We take these accusations very seriously. We can confirm that these allegations are not true. The team member failed to come to work and the separation had nothing to do with the alleged guest interaction. We are proud that our Applebee’s restaurants serve the community as an inclusive place where neighbors can come together, and that extends to both our guests and our dedicated team members.”
The vice president of communications for Applebee’s, Susan Nelson, told NBC News, “The allegations made are in direct contrast with the values we and our franchisees uphold every day.”