North Carolina Chick-fil-A store trends after asking for ‘volunteers’ to work for chicken not money

The branch is being criticized by many who are wondering if the compensation offered has anything to do with the demographics of the area. The news first spread Wednesday after an ad was shared on the Facebook page for Chick-fil-A’s Henderson, North Carolina, location. “We are looking for volunteers for our new Drive Thru Express! Earn 5 free entrees per shift (1 hr) worked. Message us for details.”

While the post has since then been deleted, it not only gathered hundreds of comments and shares but was also screenshot. In addition to speculating about the intentions of such an ad, people questioned whether the offer violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a 1938 federal labor law that mandates employers pay their employees (with money) for all of the hours they work.

In response to the backlash, the store released a statement emphasizing that the program was voluntary, and claimed it fit the needs of many.

“Thanks for everyone’s concern on this matter,” the store said in response to a post that said it shouldn’t be offering “volunteer” positions. “This is a volunteer based opportunity, which means people can opt in to volunteer if they think it’s a good fit for them. We’ve had multiple people sign up and enjoy doing and have done it multiple times. People who sign up for this chose it voluntarily.”

To many social media users, this response felt like it emphasized the concern that the company was targeting individuals who may not be able to afford meals otherwise.

A spokesperson for the company Chick-fil-A, which is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, told The Washington Post on Thursday that the Hendersonville store had “decided to end this program.”

“Most restaurants are individually owned and operated, and it was a program at an individually owned restaurant,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “This was not endorsed by Chick-fil-A, Inc.”

Responding to the allegations regarding FLSA, Jennifer Haigwood, director of communications for the North Carolina Department of Labor, told the Post that while the agency does not have any jurisdiction over volunteers or situations where there isn’t an employer-to-employee relationship, the FLSA’s requirements “are clear that there cannot be an employee who provides ‘volunteer’ work for that for-profit employer.”

“Generally, labeling a worker as a ‘volunteer’ will not remove the employer from its FLSA obligation to pay the required wages if that individual performs work that benefits the for-profit entity,” Haigwood said.

Labor laws aside, Chick-fil-A is known to be one of the most profitable franchises, further making it an issue that the company is looking for volunteers. According to TODAY, the offer could net potential “volunteers” up to five of Chick-fil-A “Cool Wraps” at $7.29 per shift. That amount would only translate to four cents over North Carolina’s current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Meanwhile, this same location offering food instead of pay gloated about announcing pay raises for employees last year. While the franchise said full-time workers would start at $19 per hour starting Aug. 23, 2021, Chick-fil-A Hendersonville had promised staff $15 per hour. 

According to the Post, a 2020 report from the consulting firm Technomic estimated that Chick-fil-A brought in about $11.3 billion in sales for 2019. Additionally, the average Chick-fil-A store outside of a mall made more than $8.1 million in annual revenue, according to franchise disclosure documents obtained by Restaurant Business magazine.

To add the cherry on top, reports say that Madison Cawthorn once worked at this same location. I doubt he worked for or would be okay with food in return. The one-term GOP Rep. Cawthorn lost his reelection bid in this year’s primary.

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