by Rainesford Stauffer
June 15, 2021
Recently, Monica*, 22, showed up to her job at a fast food restaurant and was ordered to take out braids she’d had put in less than 24 hours ago. This was despite the fact that her hair was in a ponytail and covered in two hairnets and a visor, not to mention the fact that other employees have hair of all different colors and lengths, and, she says, often don’t wear their hair nets.
This was just the latest indignity Monica says she endured on the job. It took months for her employer to approve her request accommodation to work overnights so she could spend the day with her toddler daughter; even then, she says, her manager sometimes calls her in to work an “afternoon” shift that ends at 10 p.m., the same time her overnight shift begins, with no overtime pay. When Monica had to attend a funeral, her employer proceeded to “blow up her phone,” requesting that she come in, despite knowing where she was. “I guess they want you to come to work and grieve at work,” Monica tells Teen Vogue.
The grim pivot from “essential workers are our heroes” to “no one wants to work; they’re lazy” wasn’t unexpected. After some workers were forced to make starvation wages during a deadly pandemic, some companies are blaming those who are reluctant to come back for contributing to a “labor shortage,” or what’s been called a “reassessment” of the future of work. Part of that reassessment — which includes worker strikes and walkouts that have gone viral — includes unpacking the sprawling landscape of workplace abuse that defines the job environments and self-esteem of young people who are working too much for too little, told they have to “pay their dues,” and even forced to endure racist and sexist workplaces. “It's just gotten to the point where it's just really toxic,” Monica says of her job. She wishes her employer paid higher wages, provided child care, or helped with college. Instead, she says, the employer just demands more and more.