To smile or not to smile, that is the question

February 2 – Smiling is up for debate in the Sheetz corporation after an employee left because of a smile policy in the handbook. 

Sheetz, the east coast convenience store based in Altoona, PA, has since done away with said smile policy, which apparently had stated anyone with obvious missing, broken or badly discolored teeth that are not to a disability are not qualified for employment. It went on to say existing employees with visible problems were expected to get them fixed within 90 days. 

This policy requested all employees smile when customers enter the store. 

An employee left because of the smile policy. 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “This employee that was let go, she had missing teeth, problems with her teeth and was embarrassed to smile. She brought this issue to the attention of Sheetz and I think Sheetz rightfully made the decision yesterday, let’s end that policy. I don’t think they were realizing that there were some employees who may have been put in a very uncomfortable, unfair situation being forced to smile all day when they may have had problems with their teeth.” 

This will be up for discussion on the Law Hour on NewsTalk 103.7FM this Saturday because there may be some legal issues with this in terms of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and even some statewide laws that relate to what an employer can and can’t make an employee do on the job.

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “I noticed that the announcement was made by the executive vice president of People and Culture. That is a new title to me. I see there’s like 738 listed on Linkedin. I think it’s a way they’re sort of morphing the DEI position into this new title since people are getting a little wary of the DEI – diversity, equity and inclusion titles. It just was a curiosity to me.”

Were people with bad teeth still expected to smile at Sheetz? 

Barkdoll noted, “There’s where it gets into an interesting legal question because bad teeth, this is not a protected legal class under the law, but it nonetheless presents an interesting scenario because what if you’re an employee and you feel that you legitimately are not able to be smiling all day because you have problems with your teeth?” 

It’s not clear whether or not this case could make it to court. 

Barkdoll said, “I think Sheetz smartly is coming out with ‘look we’re still encouraging people to smile, but if you’re someone in this woman’s category that quit, we’re not going to force that as a condition of your employment.’”