Marilyn Synek (pictured above) is a communications specialist who works for the group Nebraska Family Alliance. Wednesday, Synek started her morning with a visit to her favorite coffee shop. While there she was confronted by a trans woman working at the shop who cursed at her and told her to leave and never return. Here’s what happened from Synek’s own Facebook post:
One of my favorite weekly traditions is to start my day at 7 AM with a Cultiva breakfast. I’ve done it loyally once a week since I moved to Lincoln. Today, an employee of the shop approached me and said, “Marilyn Synek! I didn’t recognize you until now, but I just realized who you are, what you stand for, and the work you do. You are f****** bigoted trash, and we do not want you in our restaurant. Over 80% of the people who work here are queer. You are not f****** wanted in our restaurant, so get out and don’t come back! If you do try to come back, we will all refuse any service to you.” The cafe was busy with other customers who watched the incident transpire.
I’ve never broadcasted my political opinions in the shop before, and I have always treated the employees of Cultiva with respect and courtesy. While we, as Americans, can disagree politically, it is very important to maintain civility when interacting with people who hold different world views. Tolerance goes both ways, and the division in our current political climate will perpetuate if we neglect basic civility.
The employee, whose name is Natalie Weiss, was fired shortly after the incident. She described what happened in her own Facebook post:
This morning, while I was working a shift, an employee of the Nebraska Family Alliance, and a former member of Ben Sasse’s campaign staff came into the store. If you’re unfamiliar with Sasse’s, or the Nebraska Family Alliance’s stance on the LGBT2QIA+ community, and our rights as Nebraskans to experience equality under the law and enjoy employment and housing non discrimination protections, I encourage you to look them up. They’re real peaches. Nebraskans like myself do lose our jobs, and sometimes our living arrangements, because of who we are, and people like the Nebraska Family Alliance are why. Their money, their influence, and their national political allies are why Lincoln cannot mount a successful ballot initiative concerning Lincoln’s Fairness Ordinance.
When this person was leaving the store, I told them in no uncertain terms, and admittedly vulgar ones, that they were not welcome to come back. For that, I have lost my employment.
Yes, well, employers do tend to look down on employees shouting vulgarities at the customers. In this case, after firing Weiss, the company called and apologized to Synek for the way she was treated. “We do not condone this behavior and never have,” the store’s owner wrote on Facebook.
In an interview with the Lincoln Journal-Star, Weiss did admit her behavior was out of line saying, “What I did was unprofessional and I certainly would not want to be treated the way I treated that woman today.” Weiss told NBC News that she was surprised she was fired for her outburst:
“We were told we were allowed to ask anyone who make us feel uncomfortable and unsafe to leave, so I felt empowered to do what I did,” Weiss said. “The soft, unspoken caveat was that the people had to make us feel uncomfortable while we were working, not outside of the shift.”
I don’t think the difference here is all that subtle. Someone who says something intentionally offensive or who puts their hands on you can be asked to leave, perhaps even rudely. Someone who is sitting and quietly enjoying their coffee shouldn’t be screamed at in front of other customers because you don’t like their politics. It’s the difference between civil behavior and progressive callout culture.