Oh Chick-fil-a, You Can’t Replace Employees with Volunteers

Say what you will about Chick-fil-a, but their sandwiches are delicious. We just got a Popeyes here in Basel, and I had high hopes, but it is no Chick-fil-a.

Still, at least they aren’t asking for volunteers to work the drive-thru lane as a Chick-fil-a in North Carolina is. Behold.

And the embedded post (which I assume they will take down as soon as someone from Corporate gets wind of this, which is why I made a screenshot.)

You cannot do this. Even if you want to declare yourself the Lord’s chicken, you are still a for-profit business, and for-profit businesses cannot have volunteers. Not ever. Paying in sandwiches does not count.

Now, I can see why this might be appealing. You get five free sandwiches per shift worked which is probably a bargain for both restaurant and volunteer, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is illegal.


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31 thoughts on “Oh Chick-fil-a, You Can’t Replace Employees with Volunteers

  1. Try the Popeye’s chicken sandwich. It’s as close as you’ll come to Chick-Fil-A. Personally, I think it’s better, but — obviously — that’s a matter of taste. And, with Popeye’s, you don’t have to worry about their politics.

    1. Did you read the article? She very clearly mentions Popeye’s in the first paragraph.

      1. Yes, and she said she had tried Popeye’s, but that it didn’t compare with Chick-fil-A. I suggested a menu item that might change her mind.

  2. This totally cracked me up! Who thought this would fly (pun intended)? This is what you get when you hire people to manage your restaurants and do not teach them how to manage the restaurants. Yikes!

  3. As of right now, it’s not only still up, they are busily defending themselves in the post, despite multiple posters telling them this is illegal.

    Oh my.

    1. Actually ut is not illegal. Specifically in NC. There are stipulations that allow it just as non paid internships are allowed. I love how people think laws are standard across the country and/or just do not understand what they think they do

      1. It’s illegal at the federal level. Non-profits can have vonteers, for profit businesses must pay their employees (which means any human that works there).

      2. Do you not understand the concept of federal law?

        And yes, unpaid internship are allowed in specific circumstances, but there is also no way directing traffic is going to qualify as an “internship” for that purpose. A few key points:
        “- The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
        – The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
        – The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
        – The employer derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern, and, on occasion, its operations may actually be impeded;

        You can like the company, and believe they had the best of intentions, but still understand that they were breaking the law.

      3. FLSA may disagree with you a bit. An internship at a fast food restaurant window?? It is illegal in NC for employers to want workers to work for free. You might be able to get away with it, screwing around with terms, but with a smart labor lawyer, you could also get sued. The outcome of this practice should be interesting.

  4. Chick-Fil-A is not delicious; it is not special; it’s just another greasy fast food sandwich with a side of homophobic donations. Do not eat the hate chicken.

    1. I no longer patronize them, but did before the boycott. It is some of the “better” fast food, but hardly worth the overly-hyped, fanatic, adoration some express for it.

    2. THANK YOU! It’s salty, soggy chicken with better than average sides. Nothing more. Nothing less. Very expensive. Their politics are just a mess. I pass every time.

    1. I know! I loved the “our customers are really loyal, and they want to engage with us – so why not exploit them for cheap labor? Win-win!”

  5. Aside from the labor law violation of using an unpaid person, no one thought of the apparent problem that caused this. The hourly Pay rate at this site is $9/hour, not the assumed $15/hour, everyone thinks is minimum wage across the nation. That means that the average income is meager, and not everyone can afford to buy any fast food, so I highly doubt that working at $9/hour appeals to those who have to work an hour to earn enough to buy anything from Chick-F-A. But put that “FREE” word in, and people will do anything to get it “FREE”. I highly doubt any of those “volunteers” worked long enough to earn the $9/hourly wage but just enough to earn their “FREE” sandwich. And now we have people overreacting, thinking how “abused” these people were being mistreated. Meanwhile, the workers who actually earn $9/hour are getting abused by the paying customers and the “helpful” customers “handling the line so they can get that “FREE” sandwich. Think about it, the place has open job positions available but the customers would rather work the line managing the crowd than for a “FREE” sandwich than take the job and earn a living. I think that the site did that to avoid property damage and to keep their employees safe.

  6. Actually ut is not illegal. Specifically in NC. There are stipulations that allow it just as non paid internships are allowed. I love how people think laws are standard across the country and/or just do not understand what they think they do. Please stop with the politics as well.

    1. I would think that in this case the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act would trump a state law. Typically when it comes to labor laws, the states can enact those that are more favorable to the employees (e.g. California’s OT regulations) but not less so (e.g. where state minimum wage is less than Federal they have to pay the Federal minimum wage).

    2. Unpaid internships are specifically covered by federal law, and are only allowed in for-profit businesses when the program provides training that benefits the intern and the intern does not do work that the company would otherwise pay someone to do. That is federal law, which trumps state law here.

  7. Hell I would have love to do it…. 5 entrees vouchers per hour… work 1 day that 40 vouchers… cou t me in…

    1. Strictly speaking, 5 $5 sandwiches for an hour’s “volunteering” is the equivalent of $25/hour. Doesn’t cost the restaurant that much, but that’s the dollar value to the “volunteer.” Not that bad a deal.

      (But it’s still illegal.)

  8. Lol I can’t believe anyone is ridiculous enough to be upset about this.

    Going by the prices at my closest CFA, those 5 sandwiches are just shy of $27. That is a damn nice deal in exchange for spending an hour typing on an iPad, especially since you are a *volunteer* and not beholden to a schedule. Do it when you want.

    The pearl-clutching that some are doing regarding this can’t be anything other than political.
    If the same thing had been done by Panera or FirstWatch or similar, it would be applauded.

    1. Applauded, perhaps, but still illegal, even if it’s a pretty good deal financially for the employee.

    2. I think it’s a great idea and plenty of people would do it. But it’s still illegal. And I would have called it out in every single business that does this.

    3. Can’t pay rent in chicken sandwiches.

      Pay people actual money for the work they do. And everyone wonders why there is an employment problem in this country – if we must have capitalism, then businesses must, you know, uphold their end of the social contract.

  9. This did remind me a little of things I’ve witnessed at our local Taco Bell. It’s at a major intersection — really, the crossroads of our part of town — and it’s not unusual for homeless people to be soliciting passersby for money or food. If one of them comes in the Taco Bell, and asks customers or employees for help, the employees — frequently — offer them a meal, in exchange for a small task, such as picking up trash or sweeping the floor. I actually think it’s a good thing, as it allows the supplicants to retain a modicum of dignity, despite their trying circumstances. I’m now guessing, though, that it might be illegal?

    1. I don’t think so. Taco Bell isn’t actively soliciting volunteers–it’s using a creative method for defusing a potentially serious situation (see OSHA’s take on homeless populations and site security). Plus, I would think allowances should be made for basic humanity and common practice. The idea of giving someone a hot meal in exchange for some minor work is as old as humanity. Bringing people in to work shifts in exchange for what amounts to scrip (most of which will almost certainly never be redeemed) is something else entirely.

      1. I hope you’re right. I do think they’re doing the right thing, especially now, in the extreme heat. The drinks they are providing, alone, with the hydration, calories, plus whatever electrolytes or other nutrition they may provide, could be life-saving.

  10. You may as well volunteer. It takes nearly an hour wait in line most of the time anyway. Then you get your fee sandwich.

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