'Undercover Boss': Donatos Owner Jane Grote Abell Fires Worker For Smoking Pot On Job
Donatos delivery driver Aaron was both a hard worker and a fan of marijuana.
Workers are also human beings and so need to unwind at some point during their day. There are of course infinite ways to blow off steam in 2013, and increasingly, turning to marijuana is becoming an acceptable option in the U.S.; last year saw the complete legalization of marijuana in the states of Colorado and Washington. Smoking up, however, is still not as innocuous an option as having a cup of coffee. And Donatos pizza delivery driver Aaron learned this the hard way on the most recent episode of "Undercover Boss."
As can be seen in the video above, Aaron thought he was confiding about his hobby in a woman named, "Cathy Cooper," who said she was shadowing him as part of her appearance on a second chances reality show in the hope of opening her own restaurant. That was not the case. He was in fact being followed around by Jane Grote Abell, the owner and chairman of the board of Donatos Pizza, the Ohio-based pizza chain that grosses around $170 million a year.
Indulgent and industrious
"A lot of people smoke pot and they will, like, invite me to go in for a little bit and I'll kind of indulge," he casually told her while working his delivery route. The announcement shouldn't have come as a complete shock -- Aaron makes deliveries on the campus of the Ohio State University, and undergrads are famous for their cannabis proclivities. The news also didn't seem to be the confession of a complete burnout -- Aaron had already demonstrated a tireless work ethic on the job, actually running to make his deliveries, even making sure to call customers by their name, as is company policy.
In fact, Aaron was the "perfect picture of what a delivery driver" should be, Abell told the camera shortly before she found out about his other special deliveries. Upon hearing the news, Abell was both distraught and torn. She said she didn't know what to do. But during the reveal, she made it clear she had no choice. "When you told me when you smoked pot on the job, I've never been so angry in my life," she told him, citing the illegality and potential risk he was posing on the job. "You know, I have to let you go as a delivery driver," she said.
This wasn't the first time a worker has been fired on the hit CBS show, now in its fifth season. The other times workers have been let go, however, it was for having a terrible attitude. Last season, for instance, Jacqueline, an employee of a Retro Fitness gym in New Jersey, was fired after she defended her choice to play on her smart phone during her shift by saying, "I am not a f------ slave!" Ronnie, who also appeared last season as a worker for Boston Market, was dismissed after he explained how he "hates the customers" and referred to himself as the "the Kim Kardashian of Boston Market."
High, and then rehired?
Those two workers were let go with a very clear message: hospitality is probably not for you. A bad attitude is apparently a much more fundamental problem than a taste for marijuana, as Aaron learned. After she let him go in the show's reveal, Abell made a quick deal with her energetic employee. If he could pass a drug test in 30 days he'd be welcome to return to the kitchen. "You do a lot of the right things, [you're] fast on your feet," she told him. "Don't let me down. Don't let yourself down," she added.
The opportunity for such a quick rehabilitation, and the comfort with which Aaron shared his pot penchant, is in keeping with the growing acceptance of marijuana in the United States of America. In addition to the complete legalization of marijuana in the two western states, a full 19 states have approved the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. (Aaron's home state of Ohio hasn't made marijuana legal, but it has passed laws decriminalizing possession, making possession of less than 100 grams a minor misdemeanor, or the equivalent of a traffic ticket in the state, according to local outlet WKSU.)
And with the federal government having recently announced it will not try to block the legalization test-cases in Colorado and Washington, there may be a day in the near future when "Undercover Boss" makes a pit stop at a fully legal marijuana company. After all, this is a market that was worth $1.2 billion in 2011, as was recently noted by the Economist, which also added, "the ground at last appears to be clearing for the cannabis industry in America." Employers, however, are probably still going to reserve the right to ban workers from smoking marijuana during working hours.
Abell's visits to her company's sites were not without the usual reminders of America's workers overcoming difficult odds to complete their work. There was Buffy, for instance, an assistant manager for Donatos in Vienna, Va. She commutes 40 miles each day to work, as she had to abruptly change her career path after her life fell apart two years ago. She used to be a general manager at a hotel. But after a party she accepted at the hotel's conference center ended with a 19-year old employee being shot to death by one of the party attendees, she "felt responsible," she said, and left the job.
Her marriage was also falling apart at the same time, and so she decided to start over with Donatos. And there she was on the show, hustling around the kitchen, making sure all the toppings were placed pizzas "edge to edge," as is her assignment.
Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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