Pizza Hut has come under fire after the manager of one of its Florida locations reportedly threatened to punish employees who chose to evacuate the area to avoid Hurricane Irma.
In a memo addressed to the Jacksonville restaurant's staff, the manager wrote that "our #1 priority is the safety and security of our team." However, he went on to remind his employees of their "responsibility and commitment to our community" and then shared a set of "guidelines" with regard to the approaching storm.
After clarifying that the restaurant closes "6-12 hours before [the] storm hits," the manager warned employees not to leave the area more than one day in advance.
"If evacuating, you will have a 24-hour period before storm 'grace period' to not be scheduled," the memo reads. "You cannot evacuate Friday for a Tuesday storm event!"
The manager added: "Failure to show for these shifts, regardless of reason, will be considered a no call/no show and documentation will be issued."
The memo also states that employees that choose to evacuate "MUST return within 72 HOURS."
Pizza Hut disavowed the harsh policy after images of the memo began to spread on social media.
"We are uncompromising in our commitment to the safety and well-being of our team members," the company wrote on its website. "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," the statement continued. "We can also confirm that the local franchise operator has addressed this situation with the manager involved."
Speaking to fact-checking website Snopes, Pizza Hut spokesman Doug Terfehr explained that the restaurant in question is a franchise location and is not owned directly by the corporation.
He said the manager "elected to add a few things on their own" to the guidelines provided by the company to franchise restaurants.
Authorities generally discourage waiting until the day before a storm hits to evacuate, as supplies may have run out by then and the roads are likely to be blocked by traffic.
"If you [evacuate] later, you may be caught in a flood of traffic trying to leave the area," Miami Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez said as his city was bracing for Irma, according to the Washington Post. "You may find yourself in a car during a hurricane, which is not the best place to be."