Sonny's BBQ responds to negative social media comments sparked by On Your Side investigation

Updated: Jan. 8, 2016 at 7:50 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The corporate office of Sonny's BBQ is responding to dozens of angry comments left on its Facebook pages following an On Your Side investigation that exposed the firing of a waitress at one of the company's franchises after she reported being sexually harassed.

Lauren Jones had worked at the Sonny's BBQ franchise at the Arboretum in Charlotte for about a month when she was fired. A recording of the meeting in which she was terminated shows the owner of the franchise company, Ed Tubel, fired Jones because she reported being sexually harassed by a manager.

Also present at the termination meeting was an HR representative and the manager Jones said harassed her.

"The problem is you've been with us less than a month and he's been with us 15 years and has never had anybody every accuse him of that," Tubel is heard saying in the recording. "Because he's never done it. So that's our position right now."

STORY: Restaurant worker fired for reporting sexual harassment

Social media users began leaving unhappy comments on the Sonny's BBQ Facebook page and its page for the Sonny's location at the Arboretum following our investigation Thursday night.

"I will never step foot in a restaurant that fires an employee for filing a sexual harassment report," Facebook user Jonathan Hayes commented on an unrelated post made by Sonny's.

Other users posted directly to the Sonny's BBQ page itself.

"Shame on you Sonny's. I don't care if she only worked for you for 1 day! Your franchise owner is not only misogynistic he is also unethical and his actions are illegal" a post from Facebook user Laurie Thomas said in part.

Sonny's responded to all comments related to our investigation with the same statement.

"Thank you for reaching out to us. Franchisees independently own, operate, and staff their restaurants. It's our understanding that this is an ongoing matter that is being addressed by the franchisee, and we cannot comment at this point. However, we do take these matters seriously and we are monitoring too," the company said in response to posts and comments on its page.

But shortly after 1:00 p.m. all posts made by others had disappeared from the Sonny's BBQ page and the ability to post on its page was disabled.

The posts and commenting functionality were restored minutes after an inquire from On Your Side Investigates to media representatives for the company.

"Thank you for bringing this to our attention. The issue has been resolved and everything is visible," a Sonny's BBQ spokesman said.

At press time, a spokeswoman for Tubel's company that owns the local Sonny's franchises, Tricor, had not responded to a request for comment on what additional steps, if anything, the company is doing to resolve Jones' complaint.

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