By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Salvation Army Lodge resident Eunice Jasica finally thought she found a job at KFC earlier this month, after three months of searching.
However, when she went to company headquarters to pick up her uniform, she claims she was dismissed when her address was recognized as the lodge.
“I felt very confident about my interview,” Jasica said. “The store manager told me to come back on [March 11] and fill out paperwork.”
Jasica said she complied, bringing with her a form for her employer from the Salvation Army detailing the specifics of her employment, including hire date, start date, and expected duties. The manager completed the form, citing Jasica’s official hiring on March 12, and her start date on March 18.
“She told me to come in for training after I picked up my uniform from headquarters,” Jasica said. “But when I went to the office, [franchise owner Chelsey Ruff] told me I wasn’t hired.”
Jasica said she was bewildered, and asked for a letter as proof of her dismissal to take to the Salvation Army. The letter, signed by Ruff, claimed Jasica was not hired because of her lack of permanent address and reliable transportation.
“How can I make a down payment on a car or an apartment without a job?” Jasica said. “I feel like stigma is a part of it. The restaurant is in walking distance.”
Ruff, CEO of Ruff Business Systems, said Jasica was never hired in the first place, because all hires must come through Ruff Business Systems’ main office for final approval and to show proper forms of identification and to complete the I-9 citizenship form.
“That’s a legality for us, and we have to complete those steps,” he said. “I think the mix-up probably came when she thought she was hired in the store.”
Ruff has hired Salvation Army lodge residents before on multiple occasions, and said he has even used money out of his own pocket to equip them with non-slip shoes and other items.
“We judge a person on their merits, not where they’re from. Our policy hasn’t changed towards homeless applicants,” he said. “I was under the impression she was in the office for an interview, but with the number of applications we have, hiring her isn’t suitable to our needs right now. She’s free to come back in 30 days.”
As for the signed letter, Ruff said he did not personally write it, and that it was drawn up in haste to satisfy Salvation Army requirements that prove lodge residents are actively looking for work. He did mention that transportation had occasionally been an issue with homeless employees in the past.
Jasica, who has taken up business classes at Itawamba Community College since coming to the Salvation Army in December, said she would have to just keep trying.