Eunice Jasica Fired from Mississippi KFC for Being Homeless
A Mississippi woman was fired from her job at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant after her manager found out that she was homeless.
The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports that 59-year-old Eunice Jasica of Tupelo, who has been staying at the local Salvation Army lodge since late December, was terminated from the KFC on North Gloster Street in Tupelo last Monday after the franchise owner discovered that she had no permanent address. Jasica had fallen upon hard times after losing her previous job, her home and her car, and was staying at the Salvation Army until she could get back on her feet. The rules of the lodge required her look for work every day, and upon finding it, start paying for her accommodation and saving for a place of her own.
Jasica had been searching for work for months and was elated when she got hired by the local KFC on March 11. But according to the Clarion-Ledger, franchise owner Chesley Ruff withdrew her job offer upon learning about her living arrangement.
“He told me to come back when I had an address and transportation,” Jasica told the paper. “But how am I supposed to get all that without a job?”
A letter signed by Ruff stated that he could not employ Jasica “due to concerns of lack of residence and transportation,” but that she was free to reapply once she sorted those things out.
“How can I make a down payment on a car or an apartment without a job?” Jasica told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. “I feel like stigma is part of it. The restaurant is in walking distance.”
According to Ruff, Jasica’s homelessness wasn’t the real reason why he couldn’t hire her, although he did use it as an excuse. He told the Clarion-Ledger that her age and lack of experience were the real issues. At 59, he is unsure whether she will be able to lift 40-pound (18 kg.) boxes, and she has no previous food preparation experience.
“I was trying to spare her feelings, I guess,” Ruff told the paper. “I don’t know if that’s right or wrong, but I know it was stupid.”
But was it illegal? Apparently not. Mississippi has some of the most employer-friendly laws in the nation. While it is illegal to fire a worker at any time, for any reason as long as the termination does not violate anti-discrimination laws that bar firing based on race, age, religion, gender, national origin, military status, disability or genetic information, residency status is not protected and Ruff was well within his legal right to refuse to hire Jasica. As for the parent company, although KFC operates more than 5,200 restaurants across America, franchisees are independent and make their own hiring and firing decisions.
Maj. Sue Dorman, a Salvation Army official, told the Clarion-Ledger that she was upset by Ruff’s decision to fire Jasica.
“I was ticked,” Dorman said. “She’s one of those that’s really trying hard. She doesn’t want a hand-out.”
Advocates say that Jasica’s ordeal is symptomatic of a wider pattern of discrimination against the homeless. A recent United Nations report slammed the criminalization of the homeless in the United States following an investigation that found homeless people face great challenges meeting their basic needs and are often arrested and charged when they come up with solutions out of sheer necessity.