Sheetz says it's reviewing a policy against hiring people with teeth issues.
The policy says Sheetz cannot hire people with "missing, broken, or badly discolored teeth."
One employee described the policy as "really disgusting and kind of classist."
Sheetz says it's reviewing a policy that bars its convenience stores and gas stations from hiring people with visible teeth problems.
Like all retail workers, employees at Sheetz are expected to show up on time and provide pleasant customer service. But a more unusual policy in the company's employee handbook says that "applicants with obvious missing, broken, or badly discolored teeth (unrelated to a disability) are not qualified for employment with Sheetz." Insider obtained a written version of the policy and confirmed it with three former employees who had or have access to it. The policy is under review after Insider's inquiry.
"Your inquiry has prompted a more specific review to ensure our policies are aligned with Sheetz's commitment to foster a culture of respect," Nick Ruffner, a public-relations manager for Sheetz, said. The company, based in Pennsylvania, has about 650 locations.
"While we have a personal appearance policy that includes dental health, we provide accommodations to the policy that are granted for medical, cultural, and religious reasons," Ruffner said. "At Sheetz, it is important that we honor and recognize our employees' diverse experiences, individual identities, and unique perspectives."
Sheetz's 'smile policy' targets its mostly working-class store staff, employees say
Three former employees told Insider they believe that employment decisions are made based on what applicants' teeth look like. Some employees refer to the rule as the "smile policy."
"I hate the policy," a former employee in North Carolina said. This person, who worked for Sheetz for several years before leaving last year, declined to speak on the record for fear of professional consequences.
"It's really disgusting and kind of classist, especially when the majority of people you're employing are going to be lower-income," the former employee said.
While employers can impose dress codes and appearance requirements for employees, federal and state laws prohibit policies that discriminate against specific groups. A 2019 California law called the CROWN Act, for instance, made it illegal for employers to create policies against people with natural hairstyles such as afros and braids. Similar laws have since been adopted in other states.
Sheetz's policy contains a section aimed at current employees who don't meet its smile standard. "The timeframe for resolving issues such as this should not typically exceed 90 days," the handbook reads.
"In the event a current employee develops a dental problem that would limit their ability to display a pleasant, full, and complete smile, we cannot permit this situation to go on indefinitely," it says. "In cases such as this, the employee and store management, to include the District Manager and Employee Relations as necessary, will work to come up with a mutually agreed upon resolution."
It adds: "Sheetz believes that an employee's smile during interactions with customers and coworkers is critical to creating the sense of hospitality in our stores that we strive for."
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