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A Chick-fil-A store tried to recruit ‘volunteers’ who would only be paid in food

"Earn 5 free entrees per shift (1 hr) worked,” the now-deleted Facebook post read.
A Chick-fil-A logo is seen on a take out
A Chick-fil-A take-out bag at one of its restaurants.MANDEL NGAN / AFP via Getty Images

A North Carolina fast-food franchisee is facing sharp backlash for the "pay" it offered on a recent job posting.

On July 26, a Hendersonville Chick-fil-A location posted a job opening of sorts on its public Facebook page. In the entry, the restaurant asked for "volunteers" to work its drive-thru — not for money, but for Chick-fil-A entrees.

“We are looking for volunteers for our new Drive Thru Express! Earn 5 free entrees per shift (1 hr) worked,” the now-deleted Facebook post read. “Message us for details.”

While this offer could net potential "volunteers" up to five of Chick-fil-A’s  “Cool Wraps” at $7.29 per shift, that amount would only translate to four cents over North Carolina’s current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Although the Chick-fil-A franchisee deleted the post a day later, backlash to it was swift and can still be found bubbling across social media.

“Can I volunteer to own the store then fire what ever clown came up with volunteering work idea?” asked one Facebook user.

“That needs to be reported to the state department of labor. For-profit businesses aren’t allowed to use volunteers, especially not volunteers who would displace paid employees. The volunteers are being paid in scrip,” commented someone on Reddit. “It is also a HUGE liability issue for the store.”

“Hey @ChickfilA can you explain why your allowing a franchisee to hire unpaid positions? This is unacceptable,” wrote one Twitter user.

“The national median monthly rent price is $2,000, or 466 Chick-fil-A sandwiches,” tweeted another user.

“Imagine not paying people for working and making a post about appreciating the work they do all in the same breath,” someone commented on the Hendersonville Chick-fil-A’s Facebook page on a post unrelated to the listing. As a result of the influx of criticism, it appears that the fast-food location’s posts have limited who can comment on its page.

“Thanks for everyone’s concern on this matter,” the store wrote in the comments of its now-deleted post. “This is a volunteer based opportunity, which means people can opt in to volunteer if they think it’s a good fit for them. We’ve had multiple people sign up and enjoy doing and have done it multiple times. People who sign up for this chose it voluntarily. We are still hiring full time and part time team members, so if you are interested in working in our store, we pay $19/hr.”

While it’s common for food establishments to offer employees free meals like Chipotle or Starbucks, these companies also provide monetary compensation as a general rule. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, a for-profit business cannot hire volunteers to work, and employees may not volunteer services to for-profit private sector employers.

TODAY Food reached out to Joel Benson, the restaurant operator at the Chick-fil-A location in North Carolina, for comment and a worker there directed us to the company's corporate office. Chick-fil-A has not yet responded to our request for comment, but a spokesperson told Business Insider that the company did not endorse the program and that the restaurant has decided to end it.

"Most restaurants are individually owned and operated, and it was a program at an individually owned restaurant," they said.

On Thursday evening, Benson posted an update on Facebook:

"After carefully reviewing claims and other details brought to our attention, as you possibly have, we have decided to stop this program and not move forward any further," he wrote, in part. "We are always looking for fun and creative ways to engage our raving fans, and positively impact our community, and team members. Unfortunately, this time we brought unnecessary negativity and misplaced regional/national attention to our town instead. I apologize for this and will continue to make all efforts to treat our guests with honor, dignity, and respect. This idea was a little too creative and the consequences unintended."