Truck drivers have a ‘humiliating experience’ at dinner

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Two cross-country truck drivers who said they were refused service at a Sioux Falls Denny’s are telling their side of the story.

Damon Whitfield and Hector Madeira held a press conference Monday with their attorneys.

They plan to file a lawsuit against the national restaurant chain over the incident in Sioux Falls.

They say it all started when they stopped to eat and the waitress eventually refused to serve them in August.

The two men from Philadelphia say a waitress at the restaurant ignored them and served other customers who came in after them.

“‘We just want to let you know that we’re willing to make a request.’ And then you say, ‘Well, you know what? I’m not serving you people. As a matter of fact, you can get your stuff and go now or I’ll call the police.’ That’s when I say, ‘Are you serious?’ “She grabbed the menu and the orange juice and then she rushed over and called and then she was on the phone,” Whitfield said.

Shortly after, the regional manager, who identified himself as Mike Fletcher, called police while heading to the restaurant.

“The team called me and said they were being confrontational, argumentative, refusing to leave the building, harassing the team. Kind of following them around the restaurant,” Fletcher said.

In the meantime, Madeira says they tried to salvage the situation

“You know, I waited for her to finish her conversation and I went up to her and said, ‘Excuse me, I apologize, maybe we started off on the wrong path.’ Maybe there was a misunderstanding,” and immediately she said, “No, there is no misunderstanding.” I want you people to get out of here. “You need to leave and the police are on their way,” Madeira recalls.

Whitfield can be heard speaking to police on video recorded on the phone on August 13 at a Sioux Falls Denny’s near Interstate 29.

“I’ve never been involved in anything like this before, like I said, we just came to eat something,” Whitfield told police at the time.

Truck drivers say it was a humiliating experience.

I was insulted. We were insulted. “I had to walk out of there with my head down just out of shame about the fact that you know at this point we can’t take it, and I’m not going to put up any kind of resistance,” Madeira said.

We asked how they viewed the Sioux Falls police response.

“Once we came out and explained to them what happened, they were shaking their heads like they couldn’t believe this was happening, and the only cop that came inside and pretty much tried to do what they could to help,” Whitfield said.

“Fortunately, in our case, they were respectful, and they were very sympathetic to what we were going through,” Madeira said.

Denny issued a statement that said in part:

We regret this incident and would like to apologize to the guests involved. We clearly did not meet our standards that day and we are committed to making it right.
As a practical matter, we do not comment on any specific legal matters, pending or otherwise.

Religious statement

Lawyers for both men say Denny’s response was incomplete and they plan to file a lawsuit because they don’t want this to happen again.

The waitress who refused to serve the men has been fired, and employees at the restaurant have been given additional training, a Denny’s press release said.

Denny provided this statement to KELOLAND News Monday night:

Denny’s is committed to a culture of inclusion and service excellence for all guests. We deeply regret the incident that occurred in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and have apologized to the guests involved. We conducted a comprehensive third-party investigation into the incident that occurred on site, and as a result, the franchise owner immediately took decisive action, and the employee is no longer with the company.

At Denny’s, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our processes and procedures, and recognize that there are opportunities to provide better service in this specific situation.

Denny’s has a strict zero-tolerance policy when it comes to any form of discrimination. We maintain our commitment to continuous training and development for all employees. Staff on site have already undergone a bespoke training program to ensure this does not happen again. We fell short of our standards that day and we are committed to making it right.

We have reached out to guests to resolve this matter in a manner that is acceptable to all parties.

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