Update, July 28: This story has been updated with comment from Amico owner Frank Horgan, who denies he fired Tyler Daniel.
A former Black employee of a local Toronto pizza shop alleges he was fired from his job after he got upset that a regular customer used the N-word.
Tyler Daniel, 29, had started his job as a cook at Parkdale’s Amico’s Pizza on June 5.
Two days later, Daniel said he ran to the front of the restaurant to grab ice for his drink when he looked up at the television and saw footage of Black Lives Matter protesters on the screen.
That’s when a regular looked at the TV and said, “Fuck those protesters, we should shoot those (expletive).”
“I was offended; I was hurt,” Daniel said. “Instead of confronting the guy directly, I went to my station and tried to gather my thoughts.”
Daniel said the racist comment felt pointed: his brother had been protesting against police brutality in California.
“When you say ‘just shoot them’ you’re talking about my brother, my family,” he told VICE.
The owner of Amico’s, Frank Horgan, said Daniel had “every right to be upset” and acknowledged that the man who said the N-word was a frequent customer.
Horgan said he wasn’t at the restaurant at the time, but if he had been, he’d have asked the customer to apologize “immediately.” The restaurant owner added that he and his wife apologized to Daniel several times after they realized what had happened.
Daniel told VICE News Horgan’s wife approached Daniel, apologized, and then asked the 29-year-old to make the customer an “extra special pizza” because he was a regular.
“I put my head down and made the pizza,” Daniel said.
The following day, Daniel approached his boss, who said he was no longer needed.
“He completely dismissed me and said I was being aggressive,” Daniel said. “He gave me cash wages and said, ‘We won’t be needing you tomorrow.’”
Daniel wasn’t sure if he was fired or suspended, but after the shop posted a job opening for a cook on social media, he went back in to ask if he still had a job.
The owner “said he was uncomfortable with my working there and let me go,” Daniel said.
Horgan said that when his wife instructed Daniel to make a “thin crust” pizza for the customer, she was not yet aware that the customer had said racist things. Horgan denies ever firing Daniel.
“After talking to Tyler and apologizing to him I told him ‘I wouldn't need him tomorrow,’” Horgan said in a sworn statement to VICE News. “The next day was Monday, which is one of our slowest days, so Tyler was not needed on that day. I didn’t fire Tyler, and, in fact, he was scheduled to come in again on Thursday.”
The pair had another exchange that Wednesday, after which Horgan thought the issue had been resolved. But Horgan noted in his statement that, “Tyler did not come into work on Thursday. I assumed he was still upset and needed more time before returning to work.” Instead, Daniel sent his “Record of Events” to Horgan on Friday, June 12, 2020, and also posted it to his social media.
Amico’s Pizza also posted an apology on Instagram that has since been deleted.
“I acknowledge that I did not respond to the events described as quickly or thoroughly as I should have, given the appalling racist situation,” the note read. “I sincerely apologize the (sic) hurt I have caused Tyler and our community due to my inaction.”
Daniel said the restaurant hasn’t reached out to him directly yet. He is now working with lawyers and said he’s waiting to see if his boss reaches out before taking more action.
At first, Daniel was seeking an apology and his job back, according to a statement released by his lawyer, David Shiller. Now, Daniel wants to make sure situations like this don’t happen again.
“This stops now,” Daniel said.
Two servers quit in solidarity with Daniel, he said.
One of the servers who quit, whose name has been withheld to protect her privacy, told VICE that she publicly supports Black Lives Matter and decided to “put my money where my mouth is.”
“Potential financial insecurity does not really compare to hearing such a violent racist comment at your place of work, she said. “I stand behind Tyler completely.”
The pizzeria has been a Parkdale cornerstone, supporting the community, including some of its most vulnerable members, the server said, so she was disappointed to learn that leadership didn’t address the racist encounter adequately.
The incident follows international protests against anti-Black racism and police brutality as well as widespread, grassroots campaigns to defund the police. The unrest was sparked after a Minneapolis police officer was caught on camera with his knee on George Floyd’s neck on May 25. Floyd, a Black man, died during the incident.
Others have died recently during police encounters, including Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto and Breonna Taylor in Louisville. A number of Indigenous deaths at the hands of police have also taken place across Canada since the start of the year.
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