Sheetz ends 'smile policy' immediately

Sheetz ends 'smile policy'

SHALER, Pa. (KDKA) — Sheetz's so-called "smile policy" is coming to an end.

Sheetz's employee handbook previously said applicants with "obvious missing, broken, or badly discolored teeth (unrelated to a disability) are not qualified for employment with Sheetz."

According to the company, it is getting rid of the policy, but it's still leaving an impact on those already affected.

It was the beginning of the new year, and Rose Counts had just started a new job at a Sheetz store in Circleville, Ohio when she was brought into work and learned about a policy with the company.

"I was very uncomfortable. I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin at all, and I just wanted to get out," Counts said. "He informed me that he should have never hired me in the first place."

The policy was the so-called "smile policy," which stated employees need all of their teeth intact.

About 20 years ago, Counts' front teeth were damaged during a domestic incident with an ex. She said when Sheetz hired her, the company was aware she would need to take time off to get them repaired.

"I was told, 'no problem,' that they prided themselves in making sure their employees are healthy," Counts said.

However, then came that day when Sheetz informed her of the policy and told her she needed to fill out a bunch of paperwork for human resources.

"I felt very defeated after the conversation," Counts said.

Counts decided it wasn't worth it and quit a week later. Last month, Sheetz said it was going to "review" the policy, saying, in part:

"Throughout our history to date we have embraced an appearance policy, because we know how important a smile is to the customer experience when serving hospitality. However, we are always reviewing our standing policies to make sure they best deliver on our values and our commitment to our customers and employees. Therefore, this appearance policy will continue to be under review."

Some people in the Pittsburgh community don't think the policy sent the right message.

"it's judgmental. It's like not letting somebody work there because you don't like their color hair, or their color skin or anything else," Lisa Lombardo of Allison Park said.

"I think that you should be judged by the work you do, not what you look like, not your appearance," Mary Jo Duderstadt of Glenshaw said.

On Wednesday, Counts got a call from Sheetz saying it would hire her back and pay for her dental work. Counts thanked them and rejected the offer. She has another job offer and a dentist willing to fix her teeth in New York.

In the meantime, Sheetz said it is discontinuing the "smile policy" immediately, according to a statement.

"Our culture at Sheetz has always been centered on respect and putting our employees, customers and communities first. As a family owned and operated company, nothing is more important than creating an environment that is inclusive and supportive of all of our employees. Recently through employee feedback, we have learned that the smile policy is not aligned with these values from their perspective. We agree. Effective immediately, this policy is discontinued. We are committed to ensuring our policies moving forward are equitable and celebrate the diverse experiences, individual identities and unique perspectives of our employees."

Counts is happy to have been a part of this change, with hopes for others who look like her.

"It makes me feel like it wasn't in vane," Counts said.

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