Pizza Hut manager threatened to punish workers who evacuated early for Hurricane Irma

Pizza Hut manager threatened to punish workers who evacuated early for Hurricane Irma

Hot off the heels of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, Hurricane Irma is wreaking havoc in the state of Florida. Already having led to 37 deaths in the Caribbean islands, it hit the west coast of Florida last Sunday, shutting off power to as many as 6.5 million homes and killing 10 people across the country in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

Ahead of the category-four storm's arrival in the Southern state, residents left Florida in the tens of thousands, battering buildings with wind speeds reaching up to 130 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Even the local zoos and aquariums were subject to efforts to get inhabitants safe from the threat of Irma, but a Pizza Hut in the area was unhappy with workers and their attempts to escape the dangerous weather conditions.

The city of Jacksonville in Florida is one of the areas most affected by Hurricane Irma, unleashing a storm surge that led to record-breaking surge flooding levels of 5.57 feet, smashing a record set in 1964. You could forgive residents in the area for wanting to escape before it was too late, but a Pizza Hut in the area wrote a memo condemning workers who evacuated early.

The manager at this Pizza Hut said that his employees had a "responsibility and commitment" to the community of Jacksonville, adding that workers at this Pizza Hut "cannot evacuate Friday for a Tuesday storm event".

Allowing only for a 24-hour grace period before the storm and a maximum of 72 hours before they could return, the manager also intimated that anyone caught flouting the rules would be subject to punishment.

"Failure to show for these shifts, regardless of reason, will be considered a no call / no show and documentation will be issued."

In light of comments made by Miami mayor Tomás Pedro Regalado warning Floridians against waiting until the last minute to evacuate, this memo by this Jacksonville Pizza Hut comes across as even more callous. Understandably, the internet was extremely unhappy with the Jacksonville franchise's conduct, and there was plenty of backlash for the pizza restaurant on Twitter.

Following criticism online, Pizza Hut themselves responded to the memo at its Jacksonville branch, releasing a statement that noted "the manager who posted this letter did not follow company guidelines".

"We are uncompromising in our commitment to the safety and well-being of our team members. All locations in the path of Irma are closed and will remain closed until local authorities deem the area safe. We absolutely do not have a policy that dictates when team members can leave or return from a disaster, and the manager who posted this letter did not follow company guidelines. We can also confirm that the local franchise operator has addressed this situation with the manager involved."

While Pizza Hut declined to comment on whether or not the manager in question had been disciplined, it's good to see that common sense has prevailed in the face of Hurricane Irma. Although the storm has recently been downgraded to a tropical storm, the risk is simply too high, and the priority should be getting as many people to safety as soon as possible.