Blue Moon Burgers owner Charlie Olson, after an initial response that did not take responsibility for his participation in a racist text exchange, now calls it “a single — but nonetheless deplorable — failure” on his part. The incident, he says, triggered an investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
It’s been all over social media: A screenshot of someone at Seattle’s Blue Moon Burgers using the n-word in a text was shared on Facebook last week. In the text exchange, the epithet is used to describe a photo of Blue Moon employees in the kitchen. The man who shared the photo, John S. Thomas, a former employee, says in his Facebook post that he and his colleagues have been fighting a “battle of discrimination” for “about two years now against this same company.” (Thomas has not returned messages asking for comment.)
Charlie Olson, the owner of the Blue Moon chain, has now admitted he took part in the racist exchange, replying, “That’s what prison looks like” to the n-word comment. (According to Olson, the other party in the texts was an employee who is no longer with the company.)
Olson did not acknowledge his part in the exchange at first, saying last week in a comment on Facebook that the incident took place “almost 3 years ago” when employees “figured out they could login” to company iPads used to take online orders. “At this point, I won’t go into the details,” Olson wrote. One Facebook comment responded, “Are you saying those were not your messages? You are framing this as if it happened ‘under your roof’ but it is your name in the message.”
Contacted last week for clarification on the nature of the text exchange, Blue Moon Burgers director of operations Angela Trice stated that “an employee misused the tablet” and “the employee was let go.” Trice now says she did not include Olson’s role in her accounting of the events because “That was what I was told” by “employees who were around at that time.” (She has only been with the company since October.)
In Olson’s latest Facebook post, he admits his participation in the exchange, calling it “a single — but nonetheless deplorable — failure” on his part. He states that he has since “reached out to those involved to offer my sincerest apologies.” The incident, he says, triggered an 18-month investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “At the conclusion of the investigation,” Olson writes, “after weighing all the information, the EEOC decided not to move forward.” (Blue Moon Burgers provided EEOC documentation, with names of complainants redacted, indicating that the agency terminated its processing of the investigation in November 2016.)
Most Read Stories
- Everett’s bikini baristas head to federal court to argue for freedom of exposure
- A Washington syrah was named second best wine in the world
- Anthony Bourdain's 'Parts Unknown' came to Seattle: What did you think of the episode?
- Parents, adult son believed dead in Sammamish murder-suicide
- Look at some of the weird places people put shared bikes in Seattle
To those confused about his less-than-full original disclosure, Olson now says by phone, “When I put it up, it was just an immediate reaction… As people asked questions, I expanded the answer. I didn’t say I didn’t do it… I took responsibility right out of the gate. I never said I’m not responsible.” (Olson’s initial comment on June 15 continued, “As the owner of Blue Moon Burgers, I am responsible for everything that happens under my roof. To anyone who was offended by these messages I apologize, this is not a reflection of my views or the views of any of our hardworking staff.” He also invited those concerned to “come visit any Blue Moon Burger location and see for yourself that we have an incredibly diverse staff, from our counter staff to our management.”)
Olson also now says Trice’s original response to inquiries “was her basic understanding of it.”
To those on social media calling for a boycott of Blue Moon Burgers, Olson says, “People have the right to vote with their dollars… Since this has occurred, we’ve made so many changes to Blue Moon Burgers… I think it would be sad to penalize the people who work for me, and do such a great job, with a boycott.”
Blue Moon Burgers’ tagline is “Making the world better, one burger at a time.”