Restaurant faces backlash for threatening to fire employee who wants to attend friend's funeral

A New Jersey restaurant threatens to fire employee who wants to attend the funeral of Michael Sot. (Photo: Instagram/GoFundMe)

A restaurant in New Jersey is in hot water after threatening to fire an employee who wanted to attend a friend’s funeral.

The unnamed female college student from the College of New Jersey (TCNJ) and hostess at Café Seventy-Two texted her boss, identified only as Katie, to check if there was another host who could take one of her shifts. As seen in screenshots of the exchange, Katie immediately replied, “Are you serious? No,” before the employee took an opportunity to explain the reason she had asked.

“Someone close to my [sic] just passed away, and I’m trying to find a cover for my shifts so I can attend the funeral service rather than call out and leave you guys hanging,” the student wrote, along with a link to the announcement of Michael Sot’s death, who died in a car accident on Sunday.

The response received by the employee reads: “Oh wow thanks. Just don’t come back to work.”

Screenshots of the conversation were posted to Facebook. (Photo: Facebook)

“I like you but I’m sick of all staff not taking their job seriously and just f***ing expect me to cover all of your shifts,” Katie said. “I have a business to run at the end of the day. And a family.”

Despite the employee’s effort to explain her dedication to her job, the extenuating circumstance surrounding this specific ask and the “unethical” nature of what her boss was threatening, Katie simply said, “I’m not playing this game.”

Screenshots of the exchange were soon thereafter posted to a TCNJ Facebook group, where students showed their support for the employee by saying that they would no longer bring their business to Café Seventy-Two. Students also decided to trash the restaurant on both its Facebook (which has since been deleted) and Yelp pages.

“I used to come here often as I love supporting small businesses, but I can guarantee I will never again spend a penny here as they don’t deserve it at all. Completely disgusting,” one person wrote in a recent review. Another said, “Absolutely repulsed by the boss and her lack of empathy and respect towards an employee.”

The restaurant’s co-owner, and Katie’s husband, Ben, wrote the following apology, ensuring that the employee wasn’t  fired and revealing their donation to Sot’s GoFundMe, and posted it to their website.

Hello to all of our loyal customers. My name is Ben, the owner and operator of Café 72, a long standing family run business. I am also the husband of “Katie Café 72”. You may or may not have seen some posts on social media reflecting an interaction with a current Café 72 employee whom is also a TCNJ student affected by the recent tragic death of Michael Sot. The employee was not fired. Her last shifts were this weekend before leaving for holiday break to be with her family and friends until January 28th. This private conversation was not related in any way to the mourning of Michael. Although this interaction was displayed completely out of context by a friend of the employee and drastically misrepresents Katie and our establishment, we recognize that there is NOTHING that excuses it. We carelessly let the stresses of family and business replace the professionalism, respect and empathy that every employee and person deserves. We have received countless hate emails, bad reviews and threatening phone calls and ask that they STOP. We understand the anger and animosity that has been created by these posts, and ask for the communities’ forgiveness. On behalf of Café 72 and our family, we offer our sincerest apology. We have been residents of Ewing and operated business for many years in this township. Café 72 has gone above and beyond for Ewing Township and TCNJ through gas explosions, hurricanes, snow storms and other tragedies and will continue to do so. We recognize that it is our patrons and the community that make us special and a place to come together as one. We would like to turn the tremendous amount of negativity around and create as much positivity as possible by contributing $1000 to Michael’s GoFundMe page. We would also like to add to this donation by giving another 10% of all sales the remainder of this week in his honor. Thank you for taking the time to read this and we wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season.

Ben and Katie declined Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.

Still, comments from enraged students and former Café Seventy-Two customers have yet to stop.

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