Two employees at a Des Moines Dunkin’ donut shop on East 14th Street who were fired after refusing to serve police spokesperson Paul Parizek Saturday said the version of events Parizek later recounted on his wife Heather Burnside’s KXNO radio show were untrue.
“Some people are saying I didn’t serve him because he’s a cop,” one of the fired employees, Julia Cabral, told the Informer, contesting Parizek’s suggestion that he was refused service for wearing a “blue line” hat and being a recognizable officer. “That’s not true at all. I used to serve him all the time. Only since the allegations against him, since I heard all the stuff about him and what he’s been doing, I felt uncomfortable serving him. I personally didn’t want to serve him.”
Both Cabral and Sierra Stevens, a co-worker who was also fired, claimed they were uncomfortable serving Parizek after they heard of the allegations made by his son Keaton Parizek — exclusively reported by the Informer early last month — that he was an abusive father and had lied to the public in his role as spokesperson for the DMPD.
“No one can guarantee me they haven’t been doing something to those products these last four months,” Parizek said on Burnside’s show, alluding to his visibility representing the police in various clashes with protesters. However, both Cabral and Stevens were adamant that it wasn’t until they learned about the allegations against Parizek specifically that they felt uncomfortable serving him.
“We knew he was a cop the whole time, he wore a sergeant’s uniform, we saw him all the time and knew his order and everything like that,” Stevens told the Informer. “We only started feeling uncomfortable when the stuff came out from his son about him being homophobic, because I’m gay. Him calling people who are protesting thugs made me uncomfortable because we had attended some protests. The allegations of abuse against his wife and kids also made me uncomfortable.”
Stevens claimed that she told a third co-worker she didn’t want to serve Parizek, but that this co-worker took it upon herself to tell Parizek they would not serve him and was not prompted by Stevens to do so. Cabral said she was in the restroom at the time of the incident
Because she had never been written up for any previous infractions, Cabral said, she was surprised when she and Stevens were notified Monday that they were fired in a text message by their manager, Trina Thompson. “I got a text in the morning time the next day asking me about it,” Cabral said. “She didn’t give me time to talk about it or tell her my side of it, I was just terminated immediately.” Both Cabral and Stevens had worked at the Dunkin’ location managed by Thompson for over a year. According to Stevens, the third co-worker received a write-up but was not terminated.
After Parizek appeared on Burnside’s radio show, local news station WHO-TV reported that “Dunkin’ Donuts assured him that this was an isolated incident involving two employees, and is not indicative of the feelings of local management or the company as a whole.” Parizek, the station reported, told them that “he didn’t initially want to publicize the story and certainly didn’t want anyone to lose their job” and that “he wants an explanation from those who denied him service, something he hasn’t received.”
Reached for comment, Thompson hung up abruptly after this reporter identified himself. She would not answer any further calls or requests for comment. According to an article in the Ames Tribune from 2018 in which she is identified as the manager of a Dunkin’ location in Ames, Thompson had a history of partnering with police to raise money for charity, specifically the Special Olympics, which is hosted on the Iowa State University campus.
It appears that the incident with Parizek was merely the culmination of ongoing racial tensions at the Dunkin’ location between upper management and employees.
According to Shania Fleming, who until recently worked at the location along with three of her sisters, another manager spoke inappropriately to one of them, Jasmine Shannon, at a meeting about two weeks ago. During this meeting, Fleming said, the manager discussed what music was allowed to play at the store. Shannon and others were apparently told that they were only allowed to play country or classic rock music, not the classic hip-hop station KWQW; Fleming claimed that the manager justified this by saying the hip-hop station played music with offensive curse words, despite the fact that it’s censored. Fleming said that Shannon asked the manager to stop interrupting her during their conversation about the music. In response, she claimed, the manager told her to “stop acting like a fucking bitch.” Fleming said that she and her other two sisters pushed back on the manager’s language during the meeting.
A third manager was allegedly kept behind after the recent employee meeting and told by Thompson and the other manager that Fleming, Shannon, and their two sisters were “ghetto Black bitches,” “too loud,” and “too ghetto” to work at that Dunkin’ location, according to Fleming. This third manager, who did not respond to a request for comment from the Informer, subsequently quit in protest, Fleming claimed. Soon after, Fleming said, she and her three sisters were removed from their work schedule and effectively terminated. When she confronted management over their de facto firing, Fleming added, she was told by management that another employee had said the four sisters had voluntarily quit.
A couple days after the altercation between Fleming, Shannon, their two sisters, and the manager, the employees walked out. A sign left on the drive-through window read, “We are CLOSE [sic]!!! All employees walked out due to higher management bad managing/management not coming to help.”
“In the hours immediately following the incident I was offered a different explanation and assurances that this was not in line with Dunkin’s corporate values or their customer service expectations,” Parizek said in response to a request for comment. “I want to reemphasize that I categorically deny the allegations you published, and your continued exploitation of a young man in Keaton’s situation is disgusting. Out of respect for all my children, I will not comment any further on this.”
“We are aware of the incident that took place at the Dunkin’ restaurant, located at 1220 E 14th Street in Des Moines, IA,” a Dunkin’ spokesperson said in response to a request for comment about termination policies that detailed the comments allegedly made by management. “The employee’s behavior is not consistent with Dunkin’s goal of creating an inclusive, welcoming environment for all our of [sic] guests. Additionally, Dunkin’ respects the efforts of our police force as they work to maintain a safe community for all of us. The franchise owner, who independently owns and operates this restaurant, informs us that the two individuals responsible have been terminated. The franchise owner has also connected with the police officer to apologize for the experience. All Dunkin’ restaurants are 100% franchised, and as independent businesspeople, our franchisees are solely responsible for their employees.”
A protest outside the Dunkin’ location has been scheduled for this coming Saturday at 2 p.m.