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Labor & Employment

Store with ‘Wake the——Up’ coffee can’t fire worker for explicit chat without warning, says judge

Posted Apr 24, 2014 12:00 PM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward

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There's reportedly a sign at Last Chance Market restaurant that reads: "Shirts and shoes are required, but bras and panties are optional." Nevertheless, the boss says that he does not allow employees to tell dirty jokes at his business, and in January fired a cashier for allegedly having a sexually explicit conversation with a customer.

Iowa Administrative Law Judge Beth Scheetz dismissed Rick Braaksma's challenge to his former employee's unemployment benefits on Tuesday, the Des Moines Register reports. Wellma "Tootie" Shafer did not get fair warning before being fired, the judge found. The court awarded her unemployment benefits, finding that Braaksma had not warned Shafer about any problems with her job performance before firing her.

Shafer claimed that profanity and off-color humor were a part of the Last Chance Market work environment. Evidence presented at the hearing included photos of jelly beans, salsas and hot sauces that Last Chance Market sells. Some contained profane language, while others had depictions of women's anatomy. Two products which the article mentions are for sale are "Wake The ---- Up" coffee and "The Hottest ----in' Sauce."

The restaurant, which also has a convenience store, is located in Russell. Shafer, who worked at the restaurant for 18 months, denies talking to a customer about sexual activities. Braaksma says the alleged behavior came to his attention after customers who overheard the conversation complained.

If Braaskma doesn't allow people to tell dirty jokes in his business, the judge asked, why doesn't he remove products like "Wake The ---- Up" coffee from his shelves?

Braaksma responded, "It's alright to have dirty words on the premises because the farmers come in there and eat lunch all the time and that's just, uh, kind of—"

"So dirty words are OK," the judge said.

"Yeah," Braaksma said, "but there's a time and a place for it."

The Des Moines Register contacted Braaksma for comment.

"I don't want my store's name in no (expletive) news story," he reportedly said.

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