Burger chain employee is fired after a customer complains about her BLM face mask.
When 19-year-old Ma’Kiya Congious decided to wear her Black Lives Matter mask to work, and the first day she did, no one seemed to care. She received compliments, but no complaints. However, by the following Monday, when she returned wearing the mask a White customer threatened to call the chain’s corporate office. And, ultimately, Congious lost her job. Now, Whataburger is insisting she resigned, but the former cashier is suing.
“It’s not a political thing,” Congious said of her mask. “It’s just a statement that says, ‘Black Lives Matter’ because we do matter.”
“If we allow any non-Whataburger slogans as part of our uniforms, we have to allow all slogans,” the company said. “This could create tension and conflict among our employees and our customers. It is our job as a responsible brand to proactively keep our employees and customers safe.”
“On July 31, when Congious first showed up to work wearing the BLM mask, managers at her store located in a historically Black part of town did not raise any concerns,” her discrimination complaint to the Texas Workforce Commission reads. “It was not until the following Monday, when a White customer complained and made the threat to contact the chain’s headquarters, that Congious’s managers sat her and other co-workers down and said they had to wear masks with no opinions whatsoever on them.”
“You’re entitled to your personal opinions, that’s fine. But at Whataburger we don’t want to portray them because some people may be offended,” one supervisor said in a conversation the former employee was able to get. The company “doesn’t want to get into anything political because we’re just hamburgers and fries.” The same manager also stated, “Whataburger had provided employees with company-branded masks.” However, according to the plaintiff, her co-workers often wore face coverings with the Gucci logo or the Mexican flag.
“You want to put your two weeks’ notice in?” the recorded conversation continues with the manager speaking. “We accept it, and you don’t have to come back at all.” However, she had not resigned to quit her job and when she pushed her point that the move was discriminatory, her supervisors called the p0olice. Congious left and did not return. Afterwards, Whataburger submitted a statement indicating she had “voluntarily resigned due to a disagreement over our company uniform policy and was paid for the two weeks she was scheduled to work.”
But Jason C.N. Smith, her attorney, insists, “There’s such a strong aversion or reaction to African Americans saying that they matter, and it’s that reaction that is causing the problems in our society. Not the after-the-fact reasons given for uniformity. Congious has to file a complaint with the state’s workforce commission 180 days before filing a lawsuit against Whataburger.” Smith argued, employers must affirm Black employees and customers who want their humanity recognized., adding, “Congious’s incident sends a message that Whataburger really doesn’t care about the Black people who work for them or buy their hamburgers.”
She wore a BLM mask to work at Whataburger. After a customer complained, she lost her job.