For days, Ma’Kiya Congious wore her mask without incident in the predominately Black neighborhood in Fort Worth. Everything changed on Tuesday, Aug. 4, when an offended white customer asked the 19-year-old for a corporate phone number.
“I asked, ‘Is it something I did wrong?’” Congious recalled to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “She said, ‘They should not allow you to wear that mask … don’t worry about it you’ll be hearing from corporate.’”
Congious went inside to speak to management, and on that day a district manager and another high-ranking official were there for a visit. Congious insisted she interacted with the district manager earlier in the day and the mask was not an issue. She believes the woman’s threat to call corporate spooked the manager. Congious recorded part of her conversation with the alleged manager.
“Whataburger doesn’t want to get into anything political because we’re just hamburgers and fries,” she added.
When Congious asked why the mask wasn’t addressed before, the manager claimed she was “waiting for the right time.” She went on to espouse colorblind rhetoric.
“We’re human beings, it doesn’t matter what color we are,” the manager said.
Seconds later, one of Congious’ coworkers admitted she had been in a funk because a customer used a racial slur toward her.
“My attitude’s been kind of crappy for the past couple of days because I had a Whataburger customer call me a n—-r. You know, that’s why my life matters.”
After the coworker’s revelation, Congious asked if she could put in her two-week notice.
“You want to put your two weeks’ notice in? We accept it and you don’t have to come back at all,” the manager replied. A male voice was heard agreeing with her immediate termination.
The incident didn’t stop with the recording. Congious wanted more clarity on Whataburger’s mask policy and told the managers she wouldn’t leave until she received it. Instead of reviewing the policy, they called the cops and five cruisers showed up. Fort Worth Police confirmed officers responded to the call.
“Officers made the scene and spoke with the female ex-employee who stated that all she wanted was the number to corporate to file a complaint,” a department spokesperson told The Star-Telegram. “Ex-employee was provided number by the manager and then left scene without incident.”
Whataburger released a statement expressing its support for racial equality and shared Congious would be paid for her last two weeks.
“Whataburger supports racial equality,” the statement read. “This is simply a matter of enforcing our uniform policy. Whataburger employees are provided company-issued masks that comply with our policy and adhere to CDC and local government guidance.”
Congious later received a written mask policy that she showed to the Star-Telegram. The policy on face masks, dated May 1, merely read, “plain or work appropriate patterned bandanas or other cloth material may be used to cover your nose and mouth.”
A day after the incident, demonstrators hit the streets to protest Congious’ treatment and a racist incident that occurred less than a mile away, reported NBC 5.