A fired bartender is seeking more than $15,000 in damages and lost wages after attempting to serve a beer in a white KKK-type hood to two patrons.
On Tuesday, Dec. 1, Nathan Thaller, of South Windsor, filed a lawsuit in Hartford Superior Court against World of Beer in West Hartford (WOB, LLC) claiming that the firing was a violation of his free speech.
Thaller was fired in July. The incident began when two customers asked to try Omnipollo Brewery’s “Yellow Belly” beer, according to the lawsuit, which was filed on Thaller’s behalf by attorney Michael J. Reilly of Cicchiello & Cicchiello, Hartford.
Brewed in Sweden, Yellow Belly beer was created to bring attention to the awfulness of racism and essentially calls all Ku Klux Klan members cowards, aka yellow bellies. The bottle is wrapped in a white material to look like a hood with two black circles for eyes, a traditional KKK costume.
None of this was communicated to the patrons, however. When presented with the bottle declined to purchase it due to the $40 price tag, according to court documents. Thaller also claimed that neither WOB nor management explained to staff the social justice intentions of the beer.
The two patrons were adult men, one white, one black. After finishing their meals and beers, the patrons left without mentioning the incident. When the black patron went home and discussed what had happened with his wife, she called World of Beer to register her disgust.
On the following day, Thaller asked that the staff be trained on how to serve Yellow Belly, according to the lawsuit. On the same day, the customer’s wife posted about the incident on Facebook, which led to widespread heated debate and media coverage.
About a week after the incident, Thaller was asked if he knew what was “going on in the news” and then told that World of Beer and Thaller would have to “part ways,” according to court documents.
The lawsuit alleges that it was Thaller’s request for training that ultimately got him fired and that it was a violation of his freedom of speech.
Thaller “spoke out as a citizen on a matter of public concern when he questioned [World of Beer] serving Yellow Belly during the Black Lives Matter movement without educating its staff or patrons about the beer’s anti-racist message,” the lawsuit stated.
Thaller is seeking financial compensation for lost wages, emotional distress, attorney’s fees, and anything else the court deems appropriate. A total award amount was not defined, but court documents noted that it would likely be upwards of $15,000.
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