Protest at Lawrence Burger King causes fast-food restaurant to make changes

Burger King area director Anthony Robinson talks with Grace Porter, right, and other media members on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 outside the Lawrence Burger King location at 4671 Bauer Farm Drive. Robinson addressed a recent Burger King's action related to an employee complaint of racist Facebook posts made by a former hourly manager at the location. Robinson also added that the general manager, whose responsibility it was to immediately report the issue, was terminated.

A protest at a west Lawrence Burger King, over a racial slur on social media, has brought about change at the fast-food restaurant.

After a large group of people gathered outside the Burger King at 4671 Bauer Farm Drive on Wednesday evening, a Burger King executive announced on Thursday that a general manager for the company had been fired after inappropriately handling an incident that left another employee feeling unsafe.

At issue were social media posts by an hourly manager of the restaurant.

“That manager was on vacation and posted some very negative things,” said Anthony Robinson, area director for the franchise company that operates the Lawrence Burger King. “One of our employees saw that and that employee didn’t feel safe.”

On Wednesday, news of the incident began to spread on social media, and many Facebook users said the incident centered on a racial slur. Social media users became concerned that the employee who made the comment hadn’t been properly disciplined, and also became concerned that the employee who reported the violation had been disciplined.

By Wednesday evening, a crowd had gathered outside the restaurant, and many crowd members peppered a Burger King manager with questions and concerns about the incident. An estimate of the crowd size was hard to obtain. When a Journal-World reporter was on scene at 10 p.m., there were about 15 people at the restaurant, but a member of the crowd said that earlier in the evening more than 30 people were in the parking lot. At times, two to three police vehicles also were on the scene monitoring the protest. The restaurant did close a couple of hours early on Wednesday night as a result of the protest that was occurring in the parking lot.

On Thursday, Robinson said the person who made the inappropriate post is no longer an employee of the restaurant. He said a general manager who was responsible for dealing with the incident also was no longer employed by the restaurant. He said the employee who made the complaint is still employed with the restaurant, and that he talked with the employee and his mother on Thursday.

Robinson said Burger King should have acted faster to address the issue, and would have if the company’s procedures would have been followed. The company’s policy is for issues to be reported immediately to the human resources department or a manager. Robinson said there was a breakdown in the process after the original complaint was made, and a 24-hour period elapsed before Burger King began its review.

“Then our employee didn’t feel safe,” Robinson said. “He didn’t feel like the company he worked for was taking any action because 24 hours had gone by and nothing seemed like it was happening. And very concerned folks in the community thought the same thing.”

— Reporter Nick Krug and editor Chad Lawhorn contributed to this article.