The new 7 Eleven located at 111 West Street has been the site of a picket by a group of former employees who are accusing the new owner of having a hostile work environment as well as discriminating against blacks and women.
The 7 Eleven at the corner of West and Lafayette has been open just over a year. When the store opened, it was owned and operated by Southland Corporation, the parent company of 7 Eleven stores. On September 7, 2012, they sold the store as a franchise to Ali Yousaf. With this transition came some unforeseen problems that have both sides lobbing accustations against the other including discrimination and vandalism.
We spoke with two of the protesters/former employees this afternoon. Waynette Beavers and Kimberly McFadden, both of Annapolis are claiming that they were unjustly fired and that Yousaf runs a discriminatory and hostile workplace. Both had been employed at the store for over a year and when the change of ownership happened, they claim that Yousaf has been methodically firing black employees and replacing them with “Pakistanis including his own family.” Beavers claims that there were 8 employees prior to the change in ownership and 5 have been terminated in the past month, and all have been black. In describing the workplace, Beavers and McFadden allege that Yousaf would snap his finders to summon them, stand very near to them and touch them without permission. They both claim that their schedule had been reduced from full-time to 4 to 5 hours per week.
Beavers and McFadden filed a complaint with Southland Corporation about their treatment and claim that they were fired in retaliation for making it. “The day after I filed the complaint, Mr. Ali called me in to the back and asked me if I filed a complaint and when I said yes, he told me to punch out and go home,” said Beavers. McFadden claims that she was terminated later that same day. Southland Corporation would not confirm or deny that any complaint was made.
Another employee, Lillian Studevent, contacted Eye On Annapolis to add her perspective. She says she is still waiting to be paid for work performed for Mr. Yousaf. According to Studevent, when Yousaf took over the store, he changed her log-in information for the computer. This change also impacted her direct deposit. Her latest paycheck was sent to another employee (who admits to receiving and spending the extra money) and she has not been reimbursed by Yousaf. We asked Ms. Studevent if she was still an employee, she did not know. “All I know is that I have not been put on the schedule,” she said. She indicated that she did not think that anyone else was truly “fired”; but that they were just eliminated from the schedule. Studevent said that when she did not receive her pay or an answer from Yousaf, that she called “my Alderman, Ken Kirby” to see if he could help. Studevent lives on Bates Street (Ward 2) and is represented by Alderman Paone. The business is located in Ward 1 represented by Alderman Richard Israel.
Yousaf was very willing to tell his side of the story, but preferred to not go on video or be photographed. Waynette Beavers did agree to explain a bit of what she claims she experienced during the three weeks she worked for Mr. Yousaf.
We also spoke to Ali Yousaf who is indeed the new owner of the franchise. Mr. Yousaf claims that the two woman actually quit on their own after receiving verbal and written warnings about missing shifts and entering the back of the store during non-scheduled hours.
He admitted that when he bought the store, he did not realize that it was overstaffed by Southland Corporation and that the shrinkage (loss by waste or theft) was so significant. “As a business owner, I do not have many stores to cover me. This is it and I need to make sure I can make money,” said Yousaf. He stated that there were two employees who regularly worked only a few hours a week and it made more sense to have a more full-time employee. He claimed that another employee was turning her back on theft from the store and was fired. These five account for the five claimed by Beavers.
Yousaf is also concerned for his safety. Just yesterday, the windshield of his car was smashed. He was very clear that he has no proof of who may have smashed his window or why; but does question that it happened shortly after this picket started on Friday. He expressed serious concern for his safety as he must take daily deposits to the bank. After speaking with Mr. Yousaf, we asked Beavers and McFadden if they were aware of the vandalism; they weren’t.
It is difficult to say if there are any true racial motives at play in this situation. While Beavers and McFadden believe there are; Mr. Yousaf claims that he is just trying to staff his store as effectively as possible and make a living.
However, Beavers and McFadden believe that the race card is in play. And this is something that Annapolis does not need, and will need to address before it gets out of hand. On the other side of town, some Eastport citizens are questioning the safety aspect of voting in a community center in the middle of a HACA neighborhood that has seen a significant uptick in violent crime. However, the area’s Alderman, Kenneth Kirby, feels that the opposition is more racially motivated. A meeting is scheduled for tonight at 7:00pm at the Eastport Community Center to hopefully address some of those concerns as well.