Cities

Rhode Island legislator says she was fired by restaurant for political talk

FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2017 file photo, Rhode Island state Rep. Moira Walsh, D-Providence, listens during swearing-in ceremonies in the House Chamber at the Statehouse in Providence, R.I.

FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2017 file photo, Rhode Island state Rep. Moira Walsh, D-Providence, listens during swearing-in ceremonies in the House Chamber at the Statehouse in Providence, R.I.  (AP)

A Rhode Island state lawmaker was fired from her job as a waitress after her employer said her political views hurt the restaurant’s reputation.

Raymond Burns, the owner of the Classic Café in Providence, said Thursday he warned Democratic Rep. Moira Walsh, of Providence, that her “vocal political discussions” during her shift was interfering with her work. He said the final straw was after the restaurant received a scathing online review.

Walsh maintains that she had never been told to stop talking politics with customers and said the negative review complained about her political beliefs, not her service. The review discouraged men from patronizing the Providence breakfast spot because of what it described as "anti-male" views she had expressed on the radio and on social media.

Walsh said she has worked at the Classic Café since she was a teenager and had been working there for eight years before she was fired.

“His direct quote to me was, 'You know, we're very proud of everything that you're doing up at the State House, but your political views are affecting the business and we have to terminate your employment,'" she told WPRO-AM on Thursday.

According to the Providence Journal, Walsh said in a Facebook post: "See, since becoming a mouthpiece for those who are the voiceless, I've made a lot of enemies. I had a stranger write my first one star yelp review based not on my service, but on my political beliefs. I was fired ..."

Burns said in an email to the Associated Press it was “not a case of political censorship or denial of her right to free speech," but he said her public comments were hurting business.

Walsh told the radio station that it all started with a posting she made on social media just before Christmas saying "all my holiday cheer is for women, femmes and trans. The rest of you boys can kick rocks."

Walsh took office last month after a surprising win over a longtime incumbent in last year's Democratic primary.

Her advocacy for raising the tipped minimum wage and her candid talk about her struggles as a waitress and 26-year-old single parent have attracted wide attention, including a profile on The Atlantic's website.

"Did my comments make men uncomfortable? Clearly," she said Thursday. "Social change comes at the price of comfort, and if you're agitated, it means it's working."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.