After several weeks of student uproar at the University of Miami, the food service provider that dismissed a dining hall cashier after she didn’t charge a customer the required $6.80 breakfast fee has reinstated her.
Betty Asbury, 55, however, won’t be able to return to her post as a cashier at the Hecht/Stanford Dining Hall. Rather, Chartwells, the company in charge of the dining halls and most food service at UM, said she could continue to work in the dining hall but not handle cash. Her re-employment begins Wednesday.
Chartwells dismissed Asbury on Oct. 10, which she said was the day after a man walked past her without paying $6.80, the fee for breakfast. Asbury said she didn’t see the man because she was ringing up the customer who walked in with him.
On Oct. 22, Chartwells sent corporate human resource personnel from Naples to review her dismissal.
According to the results of the termination appeal finding, Asbury will not be allowed to handle cash and will be put on “final progressive counseling,” which functions as a final warning.
“I’m going back to work in fear,” Asbury said Tuesday. “You think they’re still going to treat me fairly? I don’t believe so. I still ain’t going to have a voice.”
Though Asbury will be given another job with similar hours and back pay for her time out of work, Chartwells released a statement Monday saying the original dismissal was warranted.
“A thorough review has been completed, and Chartwells has concluded that while the original dismissal decision was appropriate, after careful consideration of all aspects of Ms. Asbury’s work record, she will be given the opportunity for continued employment within campus dining services,” the statement read.
Asbury said she has never been written up in the past, and in August, her pay increased to $9.58 an hour.
Many, including Asbury, believe the original dismissal was linked to her involvement in the push for a Chartwells union at UM.
Philipp Schwind, a UM philosophy graduate student who started the petition on change.org, said Tuesday that companies are likely to respond negatively to workers they suspect are involved in union activity.
“Betty stood up for the union, and she got treated in a way that was clearly unfair,” he said. “What does that mean? Nobody can prove that it was for this reason, but I think if you approach this issue with open eyes, you can see that connection.”
Patricia Whitely, UM vice president for student affairs, called a meeting Monday about the results of the investigation. Among those in attendance was Joe Natoli, UM senior vice president for business and finance and chief financial officer.
“From the university administration standpoint, we are pleased that the appeals process seems to have worked as it should,” Natoli said in the meeting.
Although Asbury has mixed emotions about her return to work, she is glad to see a steady income again. She believes this would have not have been possible without student support.
STAND, an activist organization on campus, hosted events throughout the week to rally students.
“If the students, the community and STAND weren’t behind me, they wouldn’t have reinstated me,” Asbury said. “I can’t be heard at Chartwells, but I can be heard in the community.”