A former Taco Bell employee says the local restaurant where he worked fired him after he refused to take off his Black Lives Matter face mask during work.
A spokesperson for the company, however, says that Black Lives Matter masks are not against company policy.
What are the details?
The employee, 29-year-old Denzel Skinner, filmed his alleged experience in a video posted to Twitter.
Skinner had reportedly worked at the Youngstown, Ohio, Taco Bell for eight years and was a night shift manager before being terminated.
Skinner's post has gone viral and has sparked protests at the local franchise.
Taco Bell manager firing an employee for supporting BLM :/ #RIPTacoBell https://t.co/pFd6Wn4u2f— elijah daniel (@elijah daniel) 1592476789.0
In the one-minute video shared to Twitter, Skinner can be heard having a discussion with an off-screen, unidentified female about the mask.
The female can be heard telling Skinner that he is not permitted to "bring politics into the building," but he disagrees. Skinner responds by telling the woman "This is what I'm standing for. ... I'm standing up for my people."
The female tells Skinner that he doesn't "get it" and says that she doesn't have a problem with the mask or the movement, but that rather it's a "company thing."
Skinner shared a follow-up video on Facebook, where he said he was asked to leave the restaurant and was advised to "not come back."
He also told
WFMJ-TV that the company mandated mask-wearing on May 4 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He pointed out that the verbiage in the company's new policy did not stipulate what types of masks were permitted.
"It just said we have to wear a mask," Skinner recalled.
"If the governor and governments are requiring us to wear masks, we should be able to wear any type of mask that you want," he reasoned. "And not only that, I still want everyone to believe that we still need justice for what is happening in this world and people need to be held accountable for whatever mistakes that they make. Black lives are going to always matter. Not just when some people want it to matter. It will always matter."
Following outcry about Skinner's alleged firing, at least 30 people convened at the Taco Bell franchise to protest the incident.
Has Taco Bell responded?
A company spokesperson said Taco Bell was "disappointed to learn about the incident" and promised that it was working with the franchisee who operates the location "to understand what happened."
The company added that it is "committed to fighting racial injustice and are hosting open forums to give restaurant teams an opportunity to discuss racism in America."
Taco Bell pointed out that masks are certainly mandatory for restaurant employees, and the employees are asked to supply their own masks for work.
The station also reported on the restaurant's policy:
Masks are required not only by the states but by Taco Bell and KFC. They must be worn properly at all times. We have been receiving multiple guest complaints about employees wearing masks under their chins or not over their nose. Team, I know it's hot and uncomfortable but unfortunately, this is what has to be done. Not wearing your mask correctly is grounds for termination. Businesses are under a microscope right now, and we must follow the rules ... masks/gloves/food safety!!!
On Thursday, Taco Bell announced that it would permit employees to wear Black Lives Matter masks while working.
"We believe Black Lives Matter. We were disappointed to learn about the incident that took place in Youngstown, OH," a spokesperson for Taco Bell told USA Today. "We take this very seriously; we have been working closely with our franchisee that operates this location to address the issue."
The statement added, "Our goal is to ensure our policies are inclusive and keep our team members and customers safe. While our policies at restaurants do not prohibit Team Members from wearing Black Lives Matter masks, we are working to clarify our mask policy so this doesn't happen again."