McDonalds restaurant (Photo: Getty Images)
ELK GROVE - What was supposed to have been a happy meal at a McDonald's restaurant turned unhappy for a woman eating with a group of mentally disabled adults.
"They're people like we're people, so they shouldn't be discriminated against," said Constance Gastinell who works with developmentally disabled adults through programs that help integrate them into the community.
Gastinell sometimes takes some of the adults to a McDonald's on Elk Grove Boulevard for lunch, but the last time they were there she says the owner kicked them out. "He came in and he said, 'well you guys, you can't eat here, you have to leave.'"
She said the owner told her they couldn't stay because they were conducting 'business.'
"We weren't conducting business. We came into eat. We had no paperwork; we had money to buy," said Gastinell.
But McDonalds says there was no discrimination. In a statement issued to News10, Dennis and Vicki Caldwell, the local owners of the restaurant, said, This recent situation involved a food fight within their group, and disruption to our other guests.
The Caldwells added it wasn't the first time such an incident has occurred.
We have consistently attempted to work with these guests and accommodate their needs as best we can, their statement read.
Gastinell says there was no food fight and her group was well behaved.
"We went in to eat. We weren't disruptive," she said.
She feels they were told to leave because they were mentally disabled.
"I did feel as though they were targeting us, although he [the owner] says that he wasn't. Being kicked out, how else are you supposed to feel?" Gastinell said.
Soon after she was asked to leave, she rounded up her clients and left. She wants others to understand the stigma that surrounds people with disabilities.
"When you see them hurt, it hurts you. That's why it's personal," said Gastinell.
While Gastinell says she will continue to defend her clients, she no longer plans on going to the Elk Grove restaurant.