CLAIM

Pizza Hut pressured employees in Florida to return to work "within 72 hours" if they evacuated because of tropical storm Irma.

MIXTURE

RATING

MIXTURE

WHAT'S TRUE

The memo in question originated from a franchise Pizza Hut outlet.

WHAT'S FALSE

Pizza Hut as a company has no policies regarding employee evacuations from severe weather.

ORIGIN

In September 2017, as the Caribbean and southeastern United States geared up for monster storm Irma, the Pizza Hut restaurant chain came under criticism when a picture circulated online of employee directives.

The note reportedly originated in a Jacksonville, Florida restaurant, asking workers — referenced here as TMs, short for team members — to make sure they “are ready NOW” and to inform regional general managers (or RGMs for short) if they planned to evacuate because of the storm:

However, the note also informed workers:

  • If evacuating, you will have a 24-hour period before storm “grace period” to not be scheduled. You cannot evacuate Friday for a Tuesday storm event!
  • Failure to show for these shifts, regardless of reason, will be considered a no call/no show and documentation will be issued.
  • Expectation is that all TM’s work their schedule until store related storm closure (unless evacuating), then a 24 hour period will be given.
  • Again, failure to show for these shifts, regardless of reason, will be considered a no call/no show and documentation will be issued.
  • In the event of an evacuation, you MUST return within 72 hours.

Pizza Hut spokesperson Doug Terfehr confirmed the note’s existence to us on 11 September 2017, but added that it was created by a manager at a franchise-owned location, rather than one owned by the company. The unidentified manager, he said, “elected to add a few things on their own” to a set of recommendations Pizza Hut provided to franchise locations.

The company also released a statement:

We are uncompromising in our commitment to the safety and well-being of our team members. All locations in the path of Irma are closed and will remain closed until local authorities deem the area safe. We absolutely do not have a policy that dictates when team members can leave or return from a disaster, and the manager who posted this letter did not follow company guidelines. We can also confirm that the local franchise operator has addressed this situation with the manager involved.

It is unclear whether Pizza Hut employees in Florida who evacuated because of Irma would be protected from losing their jobs or eligibility for payment if their individual restaurants were closed or affected by the storm. Governor Rick Scott urged employers on 8 September 2017:

Be compassionate with your employees as they prepare for this storm and evacuate.

However, Florida is an “at-will” employment state, which allows employers to terminate workers without notice or cause, so long as the reason for their firing does not violate federal or state anti-discrimination laws. 

We contacted Pizza Hut asking if any workers who evacuated because of the storm were eligible for payment or at risk of being disciplined, but have not heard back.

Sources:

Paquette, Danielle. “Yes, You Can Be Fired For Missing Work While Fleeing Hurricane Irma.”
Washington Post. 8 September 2017.

The Weather Channel. “Irma Now a Tropical Storm; Significant Damaging Wind, Flooding and Tornado Threats Spreading Into the Southeast.”
11 September 2017.

The New York Times. “Irma Live Updates: Storm Pushes North, but Millions Are Without Power in Florida.”
11 September 2017.