Shanna Tippen, an Arkansas woman making minimum wage cleaning hotel rooms, was fired from her position for talking to a Washington Post reporter about living on the minimum wage. The hotel manager who fired Tippen actually suggested she talk to reporter Chico Harlan, then fired her for saying a minimum wage increase of 25 cents won't lift her out of poverty.
Harlan visited Arkansas in February for a feature on the wage increase. Arkansas is one of 21 states who increased the minimum wage on New Year's Day, from $7.25 to $7.50. Minimum wage in those states will reach a dizzying $8.50 by January 2017.
Tippen, a cleaner at a Days Inn in Pine Bluff, told Harlan that the extra quarter an hour—or $2 a day—isn't making a huge difference in her life, although she's now able to afford diapers that don't irritate her grandson's sensitive skin. Meanwhile, Herry Patel, the Days Inn general manager, told Harlan the wage increase is, in his words, "bad for Arkansas. Everybody wants free money in Pine Bluff."
Today, Harlan reports that Tippen was fired from the Days Inn for talking to him. Tippen told him that Patel swore at her for talking to the reporter, and called her "stupid and dumb." Ironically, Harlan says it was Patel who suggested he interview Tippen, after Harlan interviewed Patel himself during a visit to the Days Inn. But several days later, Harlan says, "Patel called me and threatened to sue if an article was published. Tippen, though, felt it was important to tell her story; she said many people shared her experience earning the minimum, and she had nothing negative to say about her employer."
Wyndham Worldwide, the company that owns the Days Inn brand, politely does not seem to give a single shit about this particular situation, telling Harlan in a statement that all their franchises are required to comply with state and federal employment law. "While we can't speak to the specifics of this or any particular situation at a franchised location," the statement adds, "please know that ours is an organization which values and respects the contributions of all associates and that we encourage each of our franchisees to do the same." Sounds like.
Since Wyndham is a private company, because Tippen was not a unionized employee, and because Arkansas is an anti-union "right to work" state (Update: And, because as our commenters point out, Arkansas is also an "at-will" employment state) she has very little recourse, even though Patel clearly fired her in retaliation for exercising her right to free speech.
The Wyndham company is very proud of their commitment to "human rights and ethics." They also welcome feedback and can be reached via email here or by phone at 1 (800) 466-1589. The Days Inn company can be reached here. The Days Inn location that fired Tippen can be reached here, and their Trip Advisor page is here. Find Days Inn on Facebook here.
Image via Google Maps