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Ex-Sheetz worker said she quit her job over the chain’s ‘smile policy’ that bans ‘obvious missing, broken or badly discolored teeth’

A red sign with white lettering that reads "Sheetz," "Fresh food," and "Made to Order" against an overcast sky at a Sheetz location in Cumru Township, Pennsylvania.Employees at Sheetz’s roughly 650 convenience stores must have full smiles without any “missing, broken, or badly discolored teeth,” according to company policy.

Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

  • A former Sheetz employee said she quit over the chain’s “smile policy.”
  • Another employee said a manager referenced the policy during a promotion discussion.
  • Sheetz is reviewing the policy following a previous Insider inquiry about the rule.

At the start of 2023, Rose found herself in a discussion with a manager at a Sheetz store in Ohio where she worked. The topic: her teeth.

Rose said she had lost several of her teeth years earlier as a result of domestic abuse by an ex-spouse. Now, she was asking for time off to have dental work done to construct a new denture.

But Rose wasn’t just getting the work done for her own sake, she said. A Sheetz company policy forbids employees from working with “obvious missing, broken, or badly discolored teeth” unrelated to a disability and gives them 90 days to fix the issue. Rose said the manager asked her for a detailed timeline showing when the procedures would take place and how much they would cost.

Rather than provide those details, Rose quit. “At that point, to be honest, I didn’t want to be there anymore,” she told Insider. Rose asked that Insider not use her full name due to potential professional consequences.

Sheetz told Insider that the manager was “newly promoted” and “was handling this type of situation for the first time.”

“As a result, this employee was provided inaccurate information which our HR team has since resolved by speaking with this employee directly earlier this week,” Sheetz PR Manager Nick Ruffner told Insider in a statement on Friday. Sheetz also told Insider that it asked for a detailed treatment plan “to determine which of our assistance programs may apply to the situation.”

Insider spoke with three former employees with knowledge of Sheetz’s teeth policy. The policy applies to current employees, and also prohibits hiring workers with visible dental issues. Sheetz said it would review the policy following an Insider inquiry earlier this month.

Some workers said the policy was unevenly enforced. Rose told Insider that a different manager who hired her had forgotten about the rule until she asked for time off. “He said, ‘technically, I should’ve never hired you in the first place,'” Rose said.

One employee said a manager referenced the ‘smile policy’ during a promotion discussion

Some Sheetz employees refer to the chain’s rule about teeth as the “smile policy.”

“They wanted you to smile whenever somebody walked in the door,” said one former employee who worked in a Sheetz store in New York state. The rule even applied early in the pandemic, when employees and customers wore face masks, said the employee, who asked to remain anonymous because they feared damaging their job prospects. Insider verified their identity and employment.

Managers have in some cases hired workers who technically violated the rule, however, workers told Insider. 

“Sheetz culture does vary widely by store,” said a former employee who worked at one of the company’s North Carolina stores until last year. “The store manager is a big part of the individual store culture.” 

While they were working at Sheetz, the employee developed tooth discoloration as a side effect of another medical condition. They said they put off trips to the dentist due to cost. “Dental work is really expensive, even on Sheetz’s really good dental plan,” said the employee, who did not want to be identified, citing potential effects on their professional reputation. Insider verified their identity and employment.

The employee said that when they expressed interest in a supervisor position, their manager told them that their teeth would be a problem for the store’s district manager. “My manager said ‘they would absolutely enforce that policy on you,'” the person said. They decided not to pursue the promotion, and later quit.

Sheetz said it offers dental insurance through United Healthcare’s Concordia Elite Plus plan. The deductible-free insurance covers the full costs of simple procedures, such as exams, cleanings, and some extractions. It covers half the cost of more complicated procedures, such as crowns, inlays, and denture repair, Sheetz told Insider.

Sheetz has won recognition for its treatment of workers

Sheetz’s smile requirement stands out as as unusually draconian, the former employee in North Carolina said, since many of the chain’s benefits and policies are better than similar retail jobs.

In 2021, for instance, Sheetz started offering employees who gave birth 12 weeks of fully paid leave. Previously, employees received six weeks of partially paid time off and six weeks off without pay. The same year, the company also increased its annual college tuition reimbursement amount to $5,250, up from $1,500, Sheetz told Insider.

The company has also earned awards for its treatment of workers. Last year, Fortune ranked Sheetz third on its list of Best Workplaces in Retail, behind Target and the grocery chain Wegmans.

Steve Rowland, a former retail manager who hosts the Retail Warzone podcast, said he wasn’t aware of another retailer that had a similar policy about employees’ teeth.

“That’s extremely specific and extremely ballsy to put that in writing,” Rowland said.

Sheetz’s smile requirement stands out among retailers because some people affected have tooth problems beyond their control, such as accidents or medical side-effects, the ex-employees told Insider.

“It honestly to me is one of the more surprising policies they have,” the former employee in North Carolina said of Sheetz’s smile requirement. “It feels weirdly over the top for them.”

Read the original article on Business Insider