A family claims a manager at an IHOP restaurant in Arkansas discriminated against her 3-year-old son who was born without arms.
Alexis Bancroft said her son, William, learned how to feed himself by sitting on the table and using his feet.
While the family was dining at an IHOP in Hot Springs, the manager took issue with the technique — saying William was not allowed to sit on the table and use his toes to grip the syrup bottles because it created a health hazard.
“He’s three years old. That’s all he knows,” Bancroft told NBC-affiliate Kark.com. “That’s what he was taught from therapy.”
Bancroft said she often dines out with her son and no other restaurant has ever taken issue with his eating style.
“All he wanted was some pancakes,” Bancroft told Kark.com.
Instead the family was never served, and left the restaurant without paying for their drinks.
Bancroft said she washed William’s feet as soon as they got to the restaurant.
She said she asked the general manager if she asks all customers if their hands are clean before they touch the syrup bottles.
The manager reportedly apologized to Bancroft — but it was too late.
“She was the one who discriminated against my son for having a physical disability,” Bancroft said.
Bancroft garnered support on Facebook, where she shared her story. She said several IHOP employees have reached out to her to express their regret over the incident.
The manager involved claimed it “was all a misunderstanding. I would never do that to your son intentionally or otherwise. That’s not what I was trying to do,” the manager reportedly said.
Bancroft said her son was shaken by the encounter.
“The very next day, he didn’t want to sit on the table to eat. He wanted to sit in a chair, which he can’t really do,” she said.
Days later William returned to the table and resumed feeding himself.
Bancroft remains protective of her son.
“Other people may think it’s not a big deal, but that is my child,” she said.
“I’m his advocate, and you’re not going to treat my kid like that.”
IHOP President Darren Rebelez said the restaurant chain does not tolerate discrimination.
“The franchisee at this location has been in touch with the guest to express his sincerest apologies and will continue to be in communication with her to resolve this issue,” Rebelez said.
The franchise also said it will re-train its staff on how to treat guests with disabilities.
“For 60 years, IHOP and our franchises have strived to create a warm and hospitable dining experience for all guests, and this incident is not reflective of that ongoing commitment,” the statement read.
The manager was reportedly placed on leave following the incident.
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