A gay employee at a Wisconsin Applebee’s claims he was brutally attacked by the husband of a co-worker only to be told that he would no longer be welcome at work due to the bad publicity it would generate.
According to Timothy Phares (right) of Rice Lake, he and his sister Krista katherine were getting out of their car in the parking lot of a Perkins restaurant on March 17 when Shannon Hendricks and her husband Rien pulled up behind them in an SUV.
“(Rien Hendricks) was getting out of his vehicle, and he said, ‘Fucking faggot, I’m going to kill you,’” Phares told the Wisconsin Gazette.
Hendricks reportedly struck Phares with a wooden two-by-four. In a written statement, Krista katherine said she heard her brother’s head hit the pavement. Phares lost consciousness and doesn’t remember anything until waking up in the hospital.
Phares suffered head and facial abrasions as well as multiple facial fractures that he says will ultimately require surgery to implant metal plates.
Rien Hendricks was taken into custody and charged with substantial battery, a Class 1 felony. Phares said the assault is not being prosecuted as a hate crime despite the homophobic slur both he and his sister reported hearing. Shannon Hendricks has not only retained her position at Applebee’s but has not been charged with her role in the attack.
Phares doesn’t know what prompted the attack, though a local source tells the Wisconsin Gazette his “behavior” had something to do with it. A few days earlier, Phares, an Applebee’s server, was treated abusively by a customer, who had made several derogatory and anti-gay comments towards him. Following company policy, he asked manager Tara Steinberg to assign someone else to the table.
The customer apparently called the next day and threatened never to come back unless Phares was fired. Steinberg said she would write him up, leading Phares to put in his two-weeks notice, which he later rescinded. After the attack by Hendricks, however, Steinberg said the restaurant didn’t want Phares back due to the amount of negative publicity it had attracted.
But Greg Flynn, CEO of Apple American Group franchise, intervened and got Phares reinstated. Still, Phares doesn’t feel safe on the job as the husband of another co-worker threatened to kill him if he returned to Applebee’s.
He was also disappointed when the chain initially refused to remove homophobic comments on its Facebook page.
The company has a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, and also provides domestic partnership benefits, but when the Gazette informed them about the Facebook comments, corporate marketing manager Katy Sincko said they were not “in the practice of hiding things on there.” 20 minutes later, however, Sincko called to say that the slurs had been removed.
As for Phares, he’s found support — and job offers — from his family and local residents of Rice Lake, who he says “have come a long way.”