WINTER HAVEN (FOX 13) - A Tropical Smoothie employee is off the job after refusing to serve police officers.
A post on social media details the encounter at the shop's Winter Haven location on W. Central Avenue.
Officer Adam Leatherberry with Lake Alfred Police wrote that he and another officer went to Tropical Smoothie Sunday afternoon. He explained that he was dressed in plain clothes, but his colleague was wearing his police uniform.
When they walked up to order, an employee apparently said to a co-worker, "I'm not serving them, you can. It's the cops. I refuse to serve them."
The officer decided to leave the store, writing that he wanted to "avoid any extra sauces in our food."
Leatherberry's Facebook post was shared more than 8,000 times by Monday. Many people who were outraged by the disrespect for law enforcement wrote negative reviews on the business's Facebook page.
Tropical Smoothie of Winter Haven responded swiftly, firing the employee by Sunday night. The owner shared the update on Facebook saying:
"Our company doesn't tolerate any discrimination of any kind. We have investigated into this case and terminated this employee immediately. This employee's comment about the police officers was very disrespectful and absolutely unacceptable! We have always supported law enforcement and military. For the past years, our cafe has served to numerous law enforcement who has patronized our café. We sincerely apologize for the misbehavior of our former employee," the post said.
Following the employee's dismissal, the small business was praised for its actions online. Many customers agreed that the employee was out of line.
"I feel like that's segregation, and I feel like no one deserves the right to tell somebody that they can't be served because of who they are, whether it's because of their race or profession," said customer Ashley Halman.
"You're pretty much telling customers they can't come in and buy food, and you won't serve them," said Eisha Cowart, "so you don't need to be here if you're not going to serve people!"
FOX 13's attempts to reach the former employee went unanswered.
On Monday night, Officer Leatherberry wrote on Facebook:
"I was overwhelmed with the support from so many people and apologize if I have not had a chance to thank each of you personally. I would like to thank Tropical Smoothie for taking the appropriate action. I don't hold any grudges as with any profession there are bad apples. I spoke with their management and truly do believe that this is an isolated incident as I have been in there before without any issues. I think that with all that is going on in this world people should ban together and not judge people by their color, gender, or profession. I'm not sure what the gentleman's problem was with law enforcement or his past history of encounters but I forgive him too. I have removed the original post from public view as I feel the issue has been resolved. Thanks and God Bless."