Two employees at an Ohio Little Caesars pizza restaurant have been fired after a couple received a pizza with pepperonis placed in the shape of a swastika.
Jason Laska of Brook Park, Ohio, picked up a ready-made pizza for his family on Saturday night, only to discover the symbol of hate on top of the pie.
Jason told News 5 Cleveland that he chose pepperoni because the store, about 14 miles south of Cleveland, had only that or cheese left. He paid for the food without checking inside the box, and was shocked along with his wife Misty when they opened it later.
"We were literally silent for a few moments," Jason told the outlet, adding that Misty "asked me if I had ordered it and they had to make it and they gave me that on purpose thinking they were targeting me because they stereotyped me or something."
Jason explained that he tried calling the store about the dark message on his pizza, but they did not answer before closing — so he and Misty shared the incident on social media. Jason told CNN that he wanted to expose the store and "express our anger."
Misty shared a photo of the pizza on Twitter Saturday, writing, "So my husband stopped at #LittleCaesars for a quick bite, husband brings this home! I’m truly disappointed. This is truly saddening and disturbing and not funny at all! These aren’t funny jokes and shouldn’t be made period and on company time?!"
A Little Caesars spokesperson tells PEOPLE in a statement that the employees responsible for the fashioning the pepperoni swastika were fired.
"We have zero tolerance for racism and discrimination in any form, and these franchise store employees were immediately terminated," the statement says.
"We’re deeply disappointed that this happened, as this conduct is completely against our values. We have also reached out to the customer to discuss this personally with him.," the statement says.
The workers had reportedly made the pizza as a "joke," Jason told News 5, adding that "it was never intended to go out to a customer, but it did."
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"Even in a joking manner it’s absolutely unacceptable," he said.
Representatives from the franchise and corporate reached out to apologize to Jason, but he told CNN that the incident is an "example of what needs to change in our world."
"And we hope that people start to realize that and use their time to make those changes and not blast us for trying to do it," he said.
Misty added that terminating the responsible employees isn't necessarily going to cause them to change their behavior.
"What repercussions are they getting from that, just termination?" she told News 5. "When they can just go right down the street and find another job?"
"Things like this are keeping hate alive in this world," Jason told CNN. "We all need the exact opposite of that right now."