UnderCover Waitress: Tea Party Movements Gets It Wrong on Civil Rights

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tea Party Movements Gets It Wrong on Civil Rights

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In general, I think being offended by somebody's political bracelet is too much. We live in a country whose system is based upon compromises and contests among groups with differing political views. We all are entitled to our opinions, even if said opinions are bloody stupid.

I have also worked in restaurants that "reigned in" the personal expression of wait staff while on the floor. Make-up was minimal, facial jewelry was not allowed, and earrings were limited one stud in each lobe. Wedding rings were acceptable, but wristwatches were not. Nothing. Nada. Clean. Private employers may do this.

Sure, we waitresses would "forget" and wear jewelry or make-up. And management would "remind" us.

So, the Northwest Herald reports that Tea Party members are rallying in support of a waitress whom they claim was fired from an Outback Steakhouse for wearing a "Don't Tread On Me" bracelet that bothered customers. Outback Steakhouse spokespeople claim the waitress was fired for being inattentive to tables and yelling at the manager when confronted about customer complaints.

The aspect of this story that is most interesting is the inconsistency and lack of comprehension of their own agenda on the part of Tea Party members.

Tea Party leader Rand Paul criticized the Civil Rights Movement because the government, according to his agenda, has no business telling private businesses what to do. Rachel Maddow questioned him in what is now a famous interview. Therefore, if a privately-owned restaurant, such as Outback Steakhouse, does not want to serve black customers then the government is wrong to enforce civil rights. By the same logic, if a privately-owned restaurant, such as Outback Steakhouse, wants to fire an employee, the government may not step in and defend her "rights." This is because, according to the Tea Party agenda, the worker does not have any rights. The private business does.

You can't have it both ways. Just because the waitress was a white girl wearing a bracelet with a Tea Party sentiment on it does not mean that the government (the enemy of the Tea Party) is supposed to step in and defend her "freedom of speech." Freedom of Speech limits the government's ability to stop citizens from speaking. A private employer can tell you to shut up, and based upon the Tea Party agenda, this is a good thing.

If Tea Party members want to limit the rights of private business owners, to whom shall they turn for enforcement of limited rights? The government? But "Don't Tread On Me" today refers to the very government that would step in to defend the "rights" of an employee fired for expressing her political views at work. Tea Party members seem to lack critical thinking skills.

For the record, Civil Rights protects citizens from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, disability, and in some cases, age. You can't be fired for being black, but you can be fired for being incompetent, you can be fired for yelling at the manager, and you can be fired for wearing political slogans while working. 


  1. If people are protesting Outback over purging employees through political activism, it's consistent with the Tea Party and Rand Paul's constitutionalist ideology. Protests and boycotts are the proper way to battle discrimination of any kind by private employers. If someone was really quoted as calling it "a violation of free speech rights", they're either not associated with the Tea Party or they are confused.

  2. Quote: "After Geller was fired, a group rallied in front of the Outback Steakhouse, waving American and Gadsden flags and accusing the restaurant of violating her free speech rights." Here is the link: http://bit.ly/uvBvGG

    The media is also playing up the idea that Megan Geller was fired for wearing the bracelet, but that is not necessarily true. Her former employer says she was inattentive to tables and rude to the manager.

  3. Thank you for your interest in Outback Steakhouse.

    The employee was not let go because of her Tea Party bracelet. On the night in question two separate tables complained about her lack of attention – one flagging down the manager to pay their bill as they could not find her and another going to the bar because they received the wrong drink and could not find her.

    When the manager spoke to the employee about this she responded by yelling at him with a hostile attitude. This is why she was fired.

    She was not fired because a customer complained about her bracelet. That would have simply been handled by asking her to take off the bracelet.

    As to the Illinois Department of Employment Security letter stating she was fired for wearing the bracelet - this simply reflects what the employee told them. No hearing was held that we participated in, nor did we submit any information regarding her claim.

    I would also point out this bracelet is not a Marine Corps bracelet nor is it a bracelet supporting our troops. The bracelet has only the motto “Don’t Tread on Me” followed by “November 6, 2012”. November 6, 2012 is the next Presidential election. The bracelet does not have any Marine Corps insignia. When the customer asked the employee about the bracelet, she said it was a Tea Party bracelet.

    You can find information on what our company does to honor our military and support our veterans on our website www.outback.com – click Company Info then click Operation Feeding Freedom and Thanks for Giving.

    Thank you.

    Joe Kadow
    Outback Steakhouse

  4. Hi, Joe

    Thank you for coming to comment and state the position of Outback Steakhouse. I did mention in my post that Outback's stated reason for the firing of Megan Geller was inattention to tables and rudeness toward the manager.

    I do think the media outlets that have picked up the story are enjoying the frenzy over the tea party bracelet. The point of my blog post was not to find fault with your restaurants, but rather to point out some inconsistencies in the tea party "agenda." First, those quoted in news articles have a complete and total lack of understanding of what are First Amendment rights. Second, since they don't like the government, I sincerely wonder who they think is going to enforce these supposed rights. Police officers are government employees. The courts are a government institution. If they choose to boycott your restaurant based on misinformation, I dare say you are better off.

    Thank you again for writing to clarify Outback Steakhouse's position. I wish you a busy weekend.

  5. Please check out nwherald.com and read Kevin Lyons editorial to get the truth of the story. Thank you!!!

    Thank you, Uncer Cover Waitress, you're the best!


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