Student employees at Brown left without paid leave amid Coronavirus pandemic

Marian Foster

mfoster3@unca.edu

Arts and Features Writer

Illustration by Serena Eaton                    Chartwells, the company that operates Brown Hall and some other dining locations on campus, is offering student employees other employment opportunities for students while the campus locations are closed.
Illustration by Jensen Stephenson                   With the most recent COVID-19 pandemic UNCA student employees are left without pay form their jobs in brown dinning hall.

Chartwells encourages Brown Dining Hall’s student employees to seek employment elsewhere during the Coronavirus pandemic. Ineligible for administrative leave, recent furloughs have left students without pay.

Me and a friend were actually going through the process of requesting to stay on campus to work when we got a call saying they didn’t want to risk student employees contracting the virus,” said James Cheek, an employee at Brown Dining Hall.

According to Cheek, Chartwells initially told employees business would continue as usual. When UNC Asheville announced the semester-long transition to remote learning, Cheek received newsletters and emails about resources for furloughed workers from Chartwells.

“They have made efforts to help those of us who need to make money find alternative employment at hospitals and other locations,” Cheek said. 

Though Cheek’s employment at Brown remains on hold, he said he feels confident he will have a job to return to. 

UNCA’s director of dining services, Brooks Casteel noted the transition to remote-learning largely impacted Chartwells decision to furlough employees. She said colleges across the country encouraged students to return home due to the pandemic and Chartwells modified Brown’s hours of operation in response.

 “Unfortunately, we’ve had to make the extremely difficult decision to place these talented, dedicated associates on a temporary furlough,” Casteel said. “This allows them to retain their existing healthcare benefits which we recognize are more important than ever before while providing the opportunity to apply for unemployment and benefit from the financial aid that is part of the CARES Act.” 

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act provides support for American workers and businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The bill includes expanded unemployment insurance, economic impact payments and tax rebates and credits.

Though Chartwells provides resources for its employees, the multi-million dollar company does not offer paid time off for furloughed students impacted by COVID-19. 

“The state of North Carolina has given us permission to give paid administrative leave, that’s a different type of leave than we’ve ever had available to any employees before,” Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Heather Parlier said during UNCA’s virtual town hall.

According to Parlier, eligible permanent employees, temporary employees and student employees can receive paid administrative leave. Eligible workers include those who cannot perform their duties remotely. Brown employees are ineligible to receive administrative leave because they are contracted through Chartwells and not UNCA.

  Brown employee Elias Smith was unaware other student employees received paid time off.

“They didn’t require any students to work during the break,” Smith said. “It sucks, but I didn’t expect to get paid time off, especially since I’m part-time.”

When the residence halls closed, Smith returned home and found employment elsewhere.

Cheek said being home where there aren’t as many bills to pay lessens the burden of not receiving a paycheck.

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