A former wall street banker was forced to fire a 16-year-old Harlem girl after the employee identified an Asian-American customer, Minhee Cho, by the size of her eyes on a store receipt.
Ronald Johnson tells Amsterdam News he is using the incident as a teachable moment at his Papa John’s stores.
“This is a 16-year-old young lady who lives with her grandmother. When I brought this to her and told her that I would have to fire her, she just broke down in tears. She honestly did not know that she had done something very wrong,” he said.
“It’s sad, but it presents an opportunity to address potential issues moving forward. I believe that she really did not mean to offend the young lady. She did not understand how it was offensive at that moment, but now she definitely understands. I heard about this at 4 p.m., and by 4:15 p.m. the determination was already made to fire her.
“We’ve been in Harlem for 10 years. We have 110 employees and this is the only time anything like this has ever happened. It wasn’t appropriate, it wasn’t right and it should not have happened. I was, frankly, very surprised. We’ve changed our operation. We’ve taken steps to eliminate any kind of problem like this in the future. It’s a learning opportunity for us. It’s a growth opportunity for us. I take this very, very seriously,” he said.
“We’ve scheduled sensitivity training for my company. We’ve learned a very valuable lesson, and that lesson is that there is never enough training. We all have to be caretakers of culture and we have to protect and nurture culture. We need to be transmitting this to our children and we’re not doing that,” Johnson said.
“I hire young people, Black and Latino kids, for three hours a day. You become their teacher, their priest,” he went on to say. “There are so many issues that these kids have. Can you shape a person’s life in that short a time? I’d like to think that if we act in a positive fashion and serve as positive role models, that maybe we can. These are good, solid people who make mistakes. I am deeply saddened by this and it’s a lesson learned.
“We serve with the utmost courtesy and respect. It’s something I drill. We try to do our very best to treat the people of Harlem with respect. Business should not be asked to solve social problems, and this is a social problem.
“They come out of school and they come to work. We’re the next step. We try to shape them into productive employees. I try and train them in the ways of making a product and making money,” Johnson said.