Can Our Manager Take Away a Promised Perk?

This question came in from our “Ask a Coach” portal:

Question:

I am 17 years old. I work at a fast-food restaurant.

Our employee handbook states that every employee is entitled to one discount per shift, which is now gone. Our General Manager just took that away.

Here’s what happened. There is a customer survey on the back of our receipts. Our GM tells us to make sure our customers know about them.

Survey takers can get a free sandwich or $2 off on a future purchase. Despite this, most customers fail to fill out the survey.

Our GM punished us. She took away the employee discount and now we have to pay full price for our meals on our break.

I, and fellow employees, have been consistent in informing all customers to fill out the survey. Since we don’t have control over who takes the survey, it seems unfair to punish us by taking away one of our few benefits.

Can my General Manager do this? If not, what can I do about it?

Answer:

Your GM can do this, as it’s an additional perk. She simply needs to ensure she pays you and others at least a minimum wage for each hour you work.

She’ll need to edit the section of the employee handbook that outlines the benefits as it’s no longer accurate. Most employee handbooks, however, allow management to change employee handbooks.

You asked “can” your GM do this.

You didn’t ask “should” she do this. As you’ve pointed out, while employees can influence customers’ feelings and follow-up actions, they don’t control them.  

Your GM’s decision negatively impacts employee morale. Some employees may quit because of it. Others may feel baffled and disappointed and talk negatively your restaurant. As a result, some of their family members and friends won’t eat at your restaurant. Others won’t apply for jobs there. She’s created a lose/lose.

What can you do? You can shake off your disappointment, and continue to work hard at your current job so you have a good employee track record, and can find a better job.

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4 thoughts on “Can Our Manager Take Away a Promised Perk?

  1. I wanted to point out something; fast food restaurants are usually franchised, and the handbook is managed by the corporate offices, which do no allow individual stores to make changes to the contents of said Handbook. Anything that is set by site specific policy will specifically say in the handbook to check with the store manager for said policy. The option not covered here is calling the corporate hotline to ask about this policy being revoked as a punishment to the entire store and if the corporate office Human Resources and Legal Department signed off on this deviation at your location.

  2. I’m not a kid, I’ve got quite a bit of ‘life’ and ‘job experience.’ And I believe you’ve overlooked two things: 1) while it SHOULD be obvious to the manager, they may be blind to the effects of this, and; 2) if no one SAYS anything about it, no one will ever know if it was a truly punitive action, or a truly stupid one.
    Also, I agree with Scott Frank who is looking one step higher – but I’ll offer that it doesn’t have to be a franchise for the OWNER to be out-of-this-loop; they could be a hand-off owner, trusting the manager to do things right.
    So, my $0.10 is that someone needs to take a deep breath and have a heart-to-heart with the manager to expose the damage they see being done. Or, if nothing else, someone needs to put this column on the managers deski.

    1. Completely agree, Dan. And when I wrote this I was partially focused on not outing the young person who wrote me.
      Twice, managers have walked into offices in which others within their buildings have Xeroxed multiple copies of an article I’ve written and taped them on the ceiling and managers’ walls.
      I’m hoping the young person who asked the question has a manager who reconsiders:)
      And tomorrow’s post and next Tuesday’s post will focus on employer/employee trust.

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