Former employees call for boycott of Frenchtown cafe

Former employees call for boycott of local cafe after being fired
Former employees call for boycott of local cafe after being fired
Posted at 5:22 PM, Nov 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-26 15:10:22-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - A cafe in Tallahassee's Frenchtown neighborhood is accused of unjustly firing eight employees the day after Thanksgiving. 

Former employees at Southern Velvet Cafe said they were let go without warning.

They said most of them are people of color and some are part of the LGBTQ+ community.

The group is asking the community to boycott the cafe, adding that one of the current employees has sexually harassed coworkers. Former employee Megan Kane said the owners were behind the harassment.

"They went out of their way to make sure that they were hiring people of color and people from the queer and LGBTQ community in an effort to help them, but ended up just doing more harm all in all," Kane said. "With the layoffs as well as the sexual harassment, it has just been a mess."

The company spoke to WTXL off-camera Monday, saying the complaints are "false allegations" from a group of "disgruntled" former employees.

The group asked people to call Southern Velvet to voice their concerns, but Kane said the phone line wasn't working. The company told WTXL callers started to harass them, so it diverted calls to an automated voicemail.

On Facebook, the cafe issued a statement, in part, saying, "The unfortunate truth was that in our excitement to offer a living wage, health insurance, sick leave and vacation pay to those who are so often underemployed in our society, such as members of the trans community, people of color, and those on the neurodivergent spectrum, we overextended. We hired people we wanted to help, not positions we needed filled. It was a horrific oversight, and one we take full blame for."

The former employees have created a list of demands, including some form of severance pay, insurance for full-time workers, and the termination of the employee who sexually harassed coworkers.

The group created a Facebook page to boycott the cafe. Kane said they plan to protest outside of Southern Velvet on Thursday, but the business said it will be closed for a week starting Tuesday to reorganize.

Kane said the group is considering legal action if necessary, but is primarily focused on the boycott and protest.