Sheetz’s ‘smile policy’ for convenience store workers may not have teeth

Sheetz’s ‘smile policy’ for convenience store workers may not have teeth

Sheetz, the Pennsylvania-born convenience store chain, is reviewing an employee rule known as the “smile policy” after business news site Insider made inquiries about it.

The policy states that “applicants with obvious missing, broken, or badly discolored teeth (unrelated to a disability) are not qualified for employment with Sheetz.”

Sheetz spokesperson Nick Ruffner, reached for comment Wednesday, acknowledged the policy and said it “will continue to be under review.”

“Throughout our history to date we have embraced an appearance policy, because we know how important a smile is to the customer experience when serving hospitality. However, we are always reviewing our standing policies to make sure they best deliver on our values ​​and our commitment to our customers and employees,” Ruffner said.

The policy is “unusual and problematic,” Philadelphia employment lawyer Eric Meyer, of law firm FisherBroyles, said Wednesday. If the rule has an unequal impact on certain groups of workers it could be unlawful, he said, unless Sheetz can prove a legitimate business reason.

“Even taking into account the carve-out for people with disabilities … it could have the impact of discriminating against certain protected classes,” Meyer said. “There may be particular protected classes that have less access to dentists.”

For existing employees showing dental problems, the policy says, the issue should be resolved typically within 90 days.

“In the event that 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, according to Insider. “In cases like 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.”

Sheetz, a family-owned chain based in Altoona, Pa., operates 669 stores throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and North Carolina, and employs more than 23,500 people, according to the company’s website.

It’s also won rankings as a top workplace when it was No. 33 on Fortune magazine’s 2022 list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, touting tuition assistance, 12 weeks of fully paid parental leave for new mothers, and other benefits offered to workers.

There are about 300 Sheetz locations in Pennsylvania, but none in Philadelphia. The closest locations to the city are in Morgantown and Reading, Pa., about 40 miles away.

Sheetz’s most noticeable presence in the Philadelphia region is in debate among Pennsylvania natives over which is better: Sheetz or Wawa, the similarly family-owned convenience store chain born in Delaware County. Some have even called for Sheetz to take over the retail spaces vacated by Wawa in Center City last year. A spokesperson for Wawa did not respond to a request for comment on Sheetz’s smile policy.

Meyer said employers generally should consider the business purpose when they’re writing appearance-based rules in the employee handbook.

“An appearance policy doesn’t really correlate with whether people are going to go to Sheetz, versus Wawa, versus Royal Farms,” ​​he said.