Pizza Ranch Worker Sues Over “Braindead” Name Tag; Boss Asks, “Who Saw It?”

In today’s litigation from Google Hell, a guy named Larson sues a guy named Olson….

Another young South Dakota food worker has sued a regional franchise owner over an insulting name tag. Caleb Larson, now of Aberdeen, is suing his former boss, Watertown Pizza Ranch owner Ross Olson, for the defamation and emotional distress incurred when he forgot his nametag and the boss handed him a tag labeled “braindead”:

Larson… claims in the civil complaint that he went to work at the restaurant on May 25, 2013, but left his name tag at home. Larson says he told Olson that he could either clock out and go home to retrieve it or he could ask a family member to bring it to the restaurant.

Olson, according to the complaint, responded, “I got one,” and handed Larson the offensive name tag.

“Maybe this will be our new pass around here for people who forget their name tags,” Larson claims he was told by Olson when he first refused to wear it. He ended up wearing it during the shift, though, because he says he feared losing his job [“SD Pizza Restaurant Ex-Employee Sues over Offensive Name Tag,” AP via Aberdeen American News, 2015.05.15].

Olson pretty much concedes the first part of the story. His defense relies on the plaintiff’s burden of proof:

In his response to the lawsuit, Olson admits he gave Larson the name tag, but he denies Larson wore it and challenges Larson to present “strict proof” [AP, 2015.05.15].

When I read that Olson admitted giving Larson the name tag, I thought, “Where’s his lawyer?” Unless Larson is waving that name tag for the cameras (the way Tyler Brandt has been able to show the “Gaytard” name tag over which he is suing the Yankton Taco John’s), the first statement from Olson should have been, “What name tag?” But Olson’s lawyer has recovered with an entirely logical response to a defamation lawsuit: defamation requires saying something unpleasant and untrue about an individual to people other than that individual. Larson bears the burden of proving not just that the boss gave him heck for forgetting his name tag but that the boss then subjected him to public humiliation.

Olson gets no sympathy from me for bad management practices—you don’t get better performance from employees by humiliating them in private, never mind in front of other workers or customers. But if Larson wants money out of this deal, he’s going to have to find witnesses—and surely customers would have noticed and could recall encountering an employee wearing a tag that said “Braindead”—who can corroborate his story. (Witnesses, feel free to submit your recollections in the comment section below… and be ready to attest to those recollections under oath!)


11 Responses to Pizza Ranch Worker Sues Over “Braindead” Name Tag; Boss Asks, “Who Saw It?”

  1. happy camper

    That’s just wrong.

  2. happy camper

    Whatever happened to that Gaytard situation in Yankton? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/25/teen-gaytard-taco-johns_n_5877472.html

  3. The lack of respect for the workforce in South Dakota has reached epidemic levels. Sadly it starts in the Governor’s office and flows downhill.

  4. mike from iowa

    Gonna be another lawsuit-iowa’s goobernor name is Terry Braindead.

  5. Deb Geelsdottir

    I haven’t seen a name tag like that. It’s not just lousy management tactics, it shows the manager’s complete lack of skill in managing people. Makes me wonder what else he does to cripple that franchise.

    I hope he is ordered to make a sizable payout and that Pizza Ranch forces him to sell. They don’t need a jackass like him sullying the company name.

  6. Roger Cornelius

    Exactly Deb, some of these characters that call themselves managers are too full of themselves to care about their employees and business.

    If anyone should wear the name tag “Braiddead” it should be the pizza manager.

    Hopefully someone will come forward to support young Mr. Larson, short of that, crap like that hurts the young man’s self-esteem.
    Remember that it is usually the small wounds that last longer.

  7. mike from iowa

    I can certainly see where witnesses would be reluctant to get involved and lose their anonymity. People could very well be sympathetic,but not to that extent.

  8. The “victim” here is now the manager of his parents “BBQ” restaurant in Aberdeen. One has to ? why it has taken so long to sue, and if this is just an attempt for money. Granted the manager in watertown is and idiot for even having that name tag.

  9. Olson should probably wear the nametag himself under the circumstances, but I admit I’m getting tired reading about lawsuits involving “emotional distress” for such trivial matters.

    The “I’m offended and therefore need to sue you and oh by the way money will make me feel better crowd” doesn’t impress me. Grow a spine and refuse to wear the nametag (if he did actually wear it). If the manager fires you – then you have the right to sue. Under the circumstances this is a stretch.

    Some seem to think this single event should result in Olsen losing his franchise and his source of income. Really? The guy might be a jerk, and I’m sure the public will determine how much of a financial hit he will take over this… but let’s not overreact.

  10. Deb Geelsdottir

    Craig, I can’t speak to the motives of that one individual forced to wear the tag, but lawsuits involve money because that is the language businesses best understand.

    We know very little about either person involved, but I would say it’s reasonable to guess that this is not the first reprehensible act the manager has perpetrated. Perhaps he has degraded and humiliated employees on a regular basis, and this instance is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Perhaps the plaintiff is the one who finally decided enough is enough.

    You could be dead wrong in your glib assessment.

  11. Mark

    Could it be the family business needs a infusion of cash?