An Applebee's server in Rice Lake, Wisc., was allegedly beaten with a 2-by-4-inch piece of wood over questions regarding his sexual orientation.
He says he was then asked not to return to work because the incident had attracted too much negative publicity for the restaurant, though Applebee's denies this allegation.
Applebee's employee Tim Phares told the Wisconsin Gazette that he and his sister were at the parking lot of a different restaurant on March 17, when an SUV pulled in behind them carrying his coworker Shannon Hendricks and her husband, Rien.
“[Rien Hendricks] was getting out of his vehicle, and he said, ‘F*****g f****t, I’m going to kill you,’” Phares told the news outlet. Shortly thereafter, he was hit in the head and lost consciousness, he said.
Phares' sister, Krista, alerted the police and later identified Shannon and Rien Hendricks as suspects.
"I saw my brother laying in a pool of blood on the pavement and literally thought he was dead," Krista said in a Facebook post, according to a blog called Hispanic News Network.
Rien has since been charged with substantial battery with intend to cause bodily harm, a class 1 felony, according to court documents.
Several days earlier, Phares had a disagreement with a table of customers who used anti-gay slurs -- a confrontation that may have led to the attack in the parking lot of the other restaurant, a source told the Wisconsin Gazette. The incident caused Phares to voluntarily give his two weeks' notice, though he later changed his mind.
Ultimately, however, Phares said his manager at Applebee's asked him not to return after the incident. Dan Smith, a spokesman for Applebee's, disputed this accusation, telling The Huffington Post that the franchise group's CEO, Greg Flynn, contacted Phares and encouraged him to remain employed there.
Smith did confirm that Rien's wife, Shannon, continues to work at the restaurant alongside Phares, as she has not been charged with any crime and is not a suspect in the investigation.
This, however, was of no concern to angry customers who berated the Rice Lake Applebee's on Facebook. One user criticized the restaurant for still employing the woman allegedly involved in the parking lot incident, while another user, who claimed to be Phares' brother, defended the store, saying, "Applebee's in Rice Lake had nothing to do with this event. Our whole family enjoys this restaurant."
In an emailed statement to HuffPost, the Applebee's spokesman added:
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.
Phares and the Hendrickses did not immediately respond to requests for comment from HuffPost.
Have you been subjected to anti-gay discrimination at work? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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