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Pizza Hut bashed after store threatened workers fleeing Irma

The Waffle House Index
The Waffle House Index 01:00

Pizza Hut has apologized after a Florida store circulated an announcement saying employees would be disciplined for fleeing Hurricane Irma outside of a narrow time window. 

An announcement posted in a Jacksonville, Florida, store as Irma barreled toward the state was shared on Reddit this weekend and quickly made the rounds on social media. The posting spelled out the circumstances under which workers would be allowed to evacuate, and threatened to discipline them if they did not work their scheduled shifts.

"Our #1 priority is the safety and security of our team," the announcement began, before noting the store's "responsibility and commitment to our community to be there when they need us." It then issued some guidelines for employees working before the storm. 

"We close stores 6-12 hours before storm hits," the memo read. It continued: "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," it read.

Jacksonville's mayor issuing a mandatory evacuation order on Friday, requiring people to leave parts of the city by Saturday. 

According to Pizza Hut's memo, employees would be allowed a "24 hour period" to leave; in the event of an evacuation order, they would be "required to return within 72 hours." The precise time the memo was posted was not certain.

The posting was roundly mocked on social media, where users lambasted the pizza chain for subjecting its workers to potential danger. Leaving only a small window of time to evacuate is risky -- especially as a natural disaster threatens -- because supplies may run out and roadways can be clogged with traffic. 

Other posters threatened to boycott Pizza Hut for the notice.

In response, Pizza Hut issued a statement reading, in part: "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." The company also said that "the local franchise operator has addressed this situation with the manager involved."

Hurricane Irma caused record flooding in Jacksonville Monday, with floodwaters reaching three feet in some areas of the coastal city.

Despite the restaurant chain's disavowal, the posting highlights the precarious position of many fast-food workers, most of whom lack job protections and could easily be fired, without recourse. Meanwhile, some food establishments build a reputation on their ability to stay open during disasters, with the most famous being Waffle House.

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