Chick-fil-A outrage: offered sandwiches as payment for work

Chick-fil-A outrage: offered sandwiches as payment for work

Imagine being offered a job at one of the most popular fast food chains in the food industry in the United States and in exchange you receive not money, but chicken “starters”. In the middle of 2022, such a proposal is not only bad business strategy, it can also be totally illegal.

Franchise Chick-fil-A. Photo: Getty Images

The operators of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Hendersonville, North Carolina, didn’t see it that way and decided it would be a good idea to recruit “volunteers” in your community to fill vacancies in the drive-thru or self-service areas.

Chick-fil-A payment? : coupons for free chicken sandwiches.

“We are looking for volunteers for our new Drive Thru Express!” read a post on the branch’s official Facebook page. “Get 5 free entries per shift (1 hour) worked. Message us for details.

The offer, since deleted, was published on July 26 and received a wave of negative messages that spread to other publications. “I don’t want anyone serving food untrained!”wrote one user.

Founded in 1967, family-owned and privately owned Chick-fil-A has more than 2,700 restaurants in 47 states, including Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and Canada.

The Cathys, the family behind Chick-fil-A, boasted a collective net worth of $14.2 billion, and was considered the 21st wealthiest family “dynasty” in the United States that year, according to a report by the Institute for Policy Studies. In 2019, Chick-fil-A generated $11.3 billion in sales

“Glad to see you removed the volunteer post which is highly illegal,” another outraged user wrote to them. “Pay workers with cash, not chicken.”

The labor shortage is real

The labor shortage in the United States is a reality and also aggravates the crisis in the national supply chain: there are approximately 5.5 million more vacancies than workers available to fill them, according to June data from the Department of Labor.

A spokesperson for Chick-Fil-A told Business Insider that the company does not endorse the program and that is why the restaurant has decided to end it.

“Most restaurants are privately owned and operated, and this was a program at a privately owned restaurant,” the spokesperson said.

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JULY 05: A Chick-fil-A employee assists a customer at a drive-thru line on July 05, 2022 in Houston, Texas.  According to an annual survey by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), Chick-fil-A has maintained its position as America's favorite restaurant for the eighth consecutive year.  (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Chick-fil-A drive-thru employees. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Although it is common for many food chains to offer certain benefits to their employees, paying workers exclusively on food is quite unusual. For example, Starbucks workers get a free drink during their shifts and seven free meals a week, and Chipotle workers get a free meal every shift.

Likely due to labor shortages, some fast food chains have taken other unorthodox approaches to finding workers over the past year.

A McDonald’s in Oregon announced it would hire 14- and 15-year-olds in 2021. Like Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s restaurants are largely run by operators who can make individual hiring decisions.

In critical comments on Chick-fil-A’s Facebook post, users accused the franchise of violate the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which prohibits private, for-profit companies from recruiting volunteers to perform regular tasks.

North Carolina Department of Labor communications director Jennifer Haigwood confirmed to Fox News that “any private sector employer covered by the FLSA forbidden allow employees to perform voluntary services.

Haigwood pointed out that the North Carolina Department of Labor has no jurisdiction over volunteers or in situations where there is no employer-employee relationship.

“Thank you for everyone’s concern about this,” Hendersonville store owner Joel Benson wrote in an Instagram post quoted by Fox News.

Benson claimed that after “carefully considering” the claims, he decided to dmaintain the program continuously.

“We are always looking for fun and creative ways to engage our community. Unfortunately, we have brought unnecessary negativity and misplaced regional/national attention to our city. I apologize for this and will continue to do my best to treat our guests with honor, dignity and respect.”

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