The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) fired seven employees of the Fort Belvoir 12th Street Starbucks; employees and the union representing them are ready to take action.
Mount Vernon Patch that AAFES, the non-appropriated fund instrumentality of the Department of Defense that operates the Starbucks locations at Fort Belvoir, conducted an investigation of nine employees of the 12th Street Starbucks in January. Starbucks licenses those locations under AAFES.
Now, employees at the Fort Belvoir Hospital Starbucks allege they were secretly videotaped and charged for stealing beverages and pastries. Those two employees are also filing a complaint.
The National Labor Relations Board will file a class action complaint on behalf on the employees from both establishments, according to union representative Janice Blackwell. Managers must file separate appeals, she said, because the union does not represent supervisors.
Blackwell said after the union reviewed the videos from both locations, it was determined there was “no way that these charges could be upheld by a third-party decision maker in this case.”
Violating Labor Relations Code
According to Blackwell, AAFES committed numerous violations of Federal Labor Relations Statute 5 U.S.C § 7116 including interrogating employees without union representation, misleading employees regarding their representational rights, and installing a concealed surveillance camera without providing the union due process.
The union will determine whether it will be filing official grievances, which would lead to arbitration hearings, or if they will file removal actions with the Merit Systems Protection Board, which would also result in an administrative hearings.
Two Different Policies
Blackwell reviewed the surveillance videos and told Patch it was hard to determine whether employees actually were in violation of the beverage policy, especially since employees were allowed to consume any bulk items as desired as long as they were on the premises. The employees “certainly are not guilty of the actual charges (claims) made against them by management,” Blackwell said in an email to Patch.
The initial AAFES food and beverage policy that was in effect while the investigation occurred states the following: “All associates assigned to food facilities with activity codes … are entitled to: free coffee, tea, and soft drinks (bulk dispensed only) from the self-service beverage station in unlimited quantities.”
However, a new employee food and beverage policy went into effect after the investigation concluded in January.
The new AAFES policy extrapolates on the former policy, saying:“Free coffee, tea, and soft drinks pertain to the regular brewed coffee/soft drinks offered to customers on the self service drink station or provided by clerk service regardless of brand, not specialty coffee beverages such as espressos, mochas, and lattes.”
The new policy also emphasizes that specialty coffee beverages may be purchased as part of an employee meal with a 50 percent employee discount.
Many policies, including the employee meal policy, are updated regularly, according to AAFES spokesperson Judd Anstey.
“Exchange policies apply to all Exchange facilities worldwide, with the occasional exception,” Anstey said in an email to Patch. “It is important to note that Exchange policies supersede franchise guidance.“
Similar Reports at Belvoir Hospital Starbucks
At the Fort Belvoir Hospital Starbucks, AAFES Loss Prevention filmed employees with a surveillance camera in December and interviewed seven employees. The incident took place at the 12th Street Starbucks. Two Fort Belvoir Hospital Starbucks employees were fired as of Feb. 21, and three employees resigned. Two more employees are serving a 30-day-suspension and their employment status is pending.
Supervisor Misha Mitchell was fired Feb. 21 via a letter sent through UPS. Mitchell, a former employee of the 12th Street Starbucks, said employees at the Fort Belvoir Hospital Starbucks were summoned to AAFES in January.
Mitchell said employees at the hospital location were accused of stealing up to $400 worth of coffee and pastries. All seven employees were asked to sign promissory notes.
12th Street Starbucks Employees Appeal
Barista Jonathan Parker initially discovered the hidden surveillance camera at the 12th Street Starbucks in late December.
“I didn’t know what it was at first, I thought it was a charger,” he recalled.
AAFES interview Parker and accused him of owing $13,000 in pastries and beverages. Parker was fired last week and will appeal through the union.
Barista Kiara McKnight met with AAFES on Feb. 21. AAFES offered McKnight her job back, but she must serve a one-week suspension without pay before resuming work. McKnight said she's unsure whether or not she will take her job back.
“I’m frustrated with all the waiting and anticipating,” McKnight said.
Barista Mary Gyimah also heard recently she was still employed by AAFES. She was suspended for drinking tea while on shift and was charged for putting sugar in her tea.
Stacy McDonald, the manager who pregnant and fired for allegedly owing $3.75, has filed an individual appeal against AAFES.
One employee, who wished to remain anonymous due to the ongoing investigation, was told he owed $200 during his interview. He signed the promissory note and paid AAFES what he owed; however, he didn’t have to pay that debt back to AAFES, Blackwell said. He was fired.
Management mishandled the way promissory notes were executed, Blackwell said. Army regulations state that monies of that nature could not be recovered from an employee and employees should not have been required to sign the promissory notes, she said.
“Management realized this after it was pointed out in the Union’s initial response. I don’t believe they are attempting to process those,” Blackwell told Patch. “They did not refer to the amounts as indebtedness in their proposed removal letters. They referred to the amounts as loss to AAFES.”
Correction: The Army and Air Force Exchange was incorrectly referred to as a company in a previous version of this story. It is a non-appropriated fund instrumentality (NAFI) of the Department of Defense. A clarification was made regarding the employee food and beverage policy that was in effect during the time of the investigation. We regret the error.
Do you live or work in the Fort Belvoir area?