Students experience changes at jobs due to COVID-19

Fast-food workers’ experiences with the pandemic


Photo by Ellory Liles

Junior Ellory Liles and two of her coworkers pose together for a photo with their required face masks and gloves. “We are all required to wear face masks and gloves no matter what position we are inside the restaurant,” Liles said.

After an eight-hour school day, junior Ellory Liles suits up for a shift at Chick-Fil-A. Used to the 15-hour workweek, Liles carries on serving meals, cleaning kitchens and working the drive-thru. That is until the ravaging pandemic changed her work schedule to 35 hours a week.

With schools closed through the end of the school year and the continuity of online school, several students like Liles are either currently working longer shifts, furloughed, or forced to apply for new jobs. The jobs that have remained open during this pandemic have taken precautions to protect workers and customers.

“Chick-Fil-A has done a good job of taking precautions in many aspects of the drive-thru in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Liles said. “We are all required to wear face masks and gloves no matter what position we are inside the restaurant. If we are taking orders or delivering food outside, we are required to wear a clear face mask that shields our whole face. All these safety measures were put in place by corporate and our operator to not only protect our guests but also our employees.”

Junior Jade Des Pres has worked at Whataburger for six months and says her work schedule has not been altered through the pandemic, though serious precautions have been taken as well. 

“Before COVID-19, my hours were pretty much the same as they are now, not much has changed there,” Des Pres said. “[However], we have to keep a mask on at all times, as well as gloves. Every 30 minutes everyone has to wash their hands. We have to keep the lobby closed until further notice, and when you get to the building to start your shift, the managers have to take your temperature. ” 

Many workers, such as junior Salma Elyoussoufi, have been laid off from their jobs. Employers have continued to lay off young workers either for health reasons or to open up positions for adults who need the money.

“I worked at McDonald’s on Plano Parkway before the pandemic,” Elyoussoufi said. “Now I am laid off because of the Coronavirus pandemic. They laid off many workers because [they believe] there is no need for many workers to be working.” 

Elyoussoufi had worked at McDonald’s three weeks prior to being terminated and is currently working on finding another job.

“I got laid off because they did not need as many workers, and I worked in the front where customers weren’t allowed to enter because of fear of the virus,” Elyoussoufi said. “I plan to apply to Kroger to see if I get the job so I don’t remain unemployed for too long.”

However, many fast-food workers who were able to keep their jobs have continued working through the pandemic to support their families through this economically devastating time. Junior Han Nguyen quit her job at Sonic to work at Whataburger due to better pay and better sanitation. 

“Before Whataburger, I worked at Sonic for about six months,” Nguyen said. “When the pandemic was at its peak and they never really took any precautions about the situation, I felt like my health was put at risk. I pay for 50% of the electricity bill since my mom is currently unemployed right now and now I work at Whataburger, which pays 13.20 [per hour].” 

Fast-food workers have been considered essential during the pandemic for risking their health to tend to customers. Many are holding out hope that the peak of the pandemic has passed and life can return to normal. 

“I continue to work through this pandemic because I feel safe with the precautions we are taking to do our part to try and stop the spread of COVID-19,” Liles said. “I also continue because I enjoy working and still need to be able to make money in order to pay for things. Overall, I’m thankful to still be able to spend time with coworkers and make money, while people can still come through and get food for their families.”