Salaries came in the form of chicken sandwiches at a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Hendersonville, North Carolina, where they had volunteers working in the drive-thru for a few sandwiches. The program was discontinued and received an overwhelming wave of critical comments.
Initially, the offer was announced on a Facebook post but it was deleted after people expressed disapproving responses. It read: “We are looking for volunteers for our new Drive Thru Express! Earn 5 free entrees per shift (1 hr) worked. Message us for details.”
Vegetarians are not the only ones raged by the offer. A user wrote: “Glad to see you deleted the highly illegal volunteer post. Pay workers money, not chicken.”
Removing the post did not solve the problem, as criticism still trickled in.
Another person wrote: “So, if the chicken sandwich is the standard wage for your volunteers, then what are the potato chips and cookies? Quarterly bonuses, maybe?”
A manager at the restaurant took a defensive stance, stating that the intention behind the program is to promote healthy relationships within the community.
The manager said: “We get people all the time that want to be a part of what we’re doing. This is designed to be an opportunity for that.” Is this an opportunity or exploitation?
A spokesperson for Chick-fil-A confirmed that the program is not active at the restaurant and it was not endorsed by the company.
The North Carolina Department of Labor received several complaints regarding this program. They concluded that the NCDOL does not have “any jurisdiction over volunteers, or situations where there isn’t an employer-employee relationship.” However, they prohibit profitable businesses from “labeling a worker as a ‘volunteer'” to sidestep any obligations “to pay the required wages if that individual performs work that benefits the for-profit entity.”
Wages are the appropriate form of compensation for the time and effort of workers. After all, people can’t pay their bills with chicken burgers.