More News:

February 02, 2023

Woman who quit job over Sheetz' nixed 'smile policy' rejects offer to return

Rose Marie Counts, a former employee in Ohio, said she had been nudged to leave because she was missing teeth due to domestic abuse

Business Sheetz

Sheetz, the convenience store chain based in Altoona, Pennsylvania, said it has removed its controversial 'smile policy' that prevented workers with missing teeth from holding customer-facing jobs.

An Ohio woman will not return to her former job at Sheetz after the convenience store chain abandoned its controversial "smile policy," which had put her in a bind because she was missing teeth and needed expensive dental work.

Rose Marie Counts, a former employee of the Sheetz in Circleville, Ohio, sparked outrage over the Pennsylvania-based company's policy last month when she said that her teeth were missing because she was assaulted by her ex-husband.

The policy had prevented workers from doing customer-facing jobs with "obvious missing, broken, or badly discolored teeth" unrelated to a disability. It gave them 90 days to fix any issues. 

This week, under mounting pressure, Sheetz backed down and removed the smile policy from the handbook.

"Recently through employee feedback, we have learned that the smile policy is not aligned with these values from their perspective," Sheetz spokesperson Stephanie Doliveira told Business Insider. "We agree. Effective immediately, this policy is discontinued. We are committed to ensuring our policies moving forward are equitable and celebrate the diverse experiences, individual identities and unique perspectives of our employees."

Counts wrote Wednesday on Facebook that Sheetz said she could return and that the company would pay for her dental work if she remained there.

"I politely (declined) the job as Sheetz (is) no longer a safe environment for me," Counts said.

In January, Counts said she had no upper teeth when she was hired by Sheetz. At the time, she had been scheduled to have her lower teeth removed in advance of getting permanent dentures, a process she expected to take up to nine months due to swelling from the removal of her remaining teeth. Although her insurance through Sheetz would have covered the permanent dentures, Counts said she was unable to receive a temporary denture.

"And even though I am good at my job I can no longer be a frontline employee with the company because of my smile," Counts wrote last month. "The company defines my smile as unbeautiful because I still have work that needs to be done on them. So I went to work today and I left work today crying. Why did I leave crying? Because I left my job that I loved that I enjoyed I was happy to be there."

In an audio recording Counts shared of her conversation with her manager, she stood up for herself. 

"It's frustrating. I was hired this way," Counts told her manager. "I feel like — to be honest — I probably will seek other employment because I feel like if my job performance is not enough, and it has to be based on any part of my looks, then it's not a company I want to be associated with."

Another unnamed employee affected by the policy told Business Insider that a manager had asked pressuring questions about the timeline and cost of dental work to determine whether it would fit within the company's 90-day window to get the teeth fixed under the smile policy. An employee with discolored teeth reportedly was told by a manager not to pursue a promotion.

Sheetz, based in Altoona, has consistently been named among Fortune's 100 Best Companies To Work For rankings. The chain is known for its competitive pay, 12 weeks of maternity leave and reimbursement for college tuition.

"Jeans? Fine. Tattoos? No problem," Fortune had wrote of the company's culture last year. "Sheetz encourages employees to express their individuality through their personal appearance."

Counts said she has been contacted by a cosmetic dentist in Brooklyn, New York who wants to offer help with her teeth. She also said she does not blame her manager for approaching her about her teeth. The company previously had defended the manager because she "was handling this type of situation for the first time," although the manager could be heard in Counts' recording saying she'd had "similar conversations that didn't go well" with other employees. 

"(Sheetz) told me that the store manager had been misinformed," Counts wrote on Facebook. "I personally feel like they are throwing her under the bus because (it's Sheetz') policy not her personal policy."

Doliveira told Business Insider the company is committed to showing respect for its employees, customers and communities.

"As a family owned and operated company, nothing is more important than creating an environment that is inclusive and supportive of all of our employees," Doliveira said.