Pizza Hut manager lays job on the line for family time

Pizza Hut manager Tony Rohr asks his boss to see past profits to help employees preserve family time.

Jonathan Fickies/Images for Pizza Hut/AP
Pizza Hut manager controversy: Pizza Hut made headlines this week for firing a manager who requested Thanksgiving off for his employees. Here, Pizza Hut customers line up for a pizza party in Times Square, Sept. 8.

It’s Black Friday and, as businesses get out of the red, it’s worth pausing to admire the Pizza Hut manager who lost his job when he tried to give corporate America an opportunity to see families as something more than a source of black ink.

While businesses traditionally mark profit in black ink and loss in red, Tony Rohr asked his boss to see past the ink to the value of family time.

Mr. Rohr, who has worked for the chain in its Elkhart, Ind. restaurant since starting as a cook more than 10 years ago, refused to open on Thanksgiving Day, according to the Associated Press.

Rohr says he was looking out for his employees in an attempt to preserve one of the very few guaranteed family-time holiday experiences on the restaurant’s calendar.

The result was being told to write a letter of resignation (The company has since offered him his job back, but he has not yet accepted.).

Instead, Rohr says he wrote a letter explaining that he believed that family should be more important, at least two days per year, than the almighty dollar.

"Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only two days that they're closed in the whole year, and they're the only two days that those people are guaranteed to have off and spend it with their families," Rohr told WSBT-TV.

This story resonated with me because this Thanksgiving was the first in many that my husband did not have to work. As a front-end designer for the Virginia-Pilot newspaper, he frequently has to work on holidays.

We have always rationalized his absence as an awful necessity and done our best to have dinner before lunchtime in order to have him there before his 4 p.m. shift started.

He also works Christmas most years.

The tension of trying to jam the family time and holiday “joy” into the spaces around his work hours has usually resulted in family arguments and crankiness.

Family time gradually became something to avoid.

However, having him home yesterday was such an incredible blessing that I realized how different our family would view holidays today if it had been complete each previous year.

Yesterday, we sat around the table laughing and telling old stories without the tension of having to hurry up and eat so he could go.

He wasn’t preoccupied and anxious.

It was relaxed and fun. We all connected because there wasn’t a time limit hanging over the meal – the corporate axe hovering above the turkey’s neck.

Afterwards, he sat and watched sports with two of the boys. My husband and I later walked off the meal together with the dog.

When we came home, he dozed in a tryptophan-induced slumber while I tidied the kitchen and made coffee.

Because jobs are scarce – and with two kids in college and a wife who works part time, my husband needs his so very much – he would never be able to risk his job as Rohr did in order to have some family time.

After dinner he told me he’s working Christmas Eve this year, which for him means not getting home until midnight or later.

That means Christmas morning will once again mean Papa is exhausted and the kids won’t understand that it’s not him being “a holiday grouch,” but an exhausted, dedicated provider.

Someday the kids will understand. It would be lovely if corporate America could get the picture right now. I know as a shopper I would appreciate and be loyal to a company that values families by allowing us to get more for our money than just things.

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