BRANTFORD -- Staff members at a Brantford Dairy Queen are speaking out after they said they've been mistreated by customers.

Jillian Byers has worked at Dairy Queen for seven years, she said the harassment has gotten worse over the past year.

“We’ve been called everything under the sun,” Byers said. “It kind of took a step from harassment to abuse, I’d say with the pandemic.”

In one instance, the franchise had to call Brantford police to help deal with a customer who was harassing a staff member over a wrong Blizzard ingredient.

“The morale definitely goes down when those customers come in,” Taylor Breau, the operations manager, said.

Brantford police confirmed officers responded to a call on April 11 in response to a consumer dispute involving a difficult customer. No charges were laid.

Dairy Queen Brantford posted to social media, reminding customers to treat workers with respect.

“My job is to basically come here and try and help provide a smile to someone. I’m not really here trying to be your punching bag,” Byers said.

A social psychology professor said the stress of the pandemic is one reason why customers are mistreating service workers.

“It’s often in cases where we already have essentially depleted most of our coping resources that those small hassles end up provoking a much larger response than they really deserve,” said Anne Wilson, a social psychology professor at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Wilson said essential workers tend to be the brunt of the mistreatment because people are interacting with fewer people in their day to day lives.

“The unfortunate side effect is that folks in some of these essential services are the ones who receive some of this mistreatment,” Wilson said.

Dairy Queen Brantford is hoping customers realize there is a person behind the mask.