“So what did you do this summer?”
Jensen Walcott and Jake Reed from Bonner Springs said Thursday they already have the answer to that question when they go back to high school for their senior year.
Two weeks ago, within hours after finding summer jobs at Pizza Studio in Kansas City, Kan., they were fired for discussing why they weren’t paid the same.
Walcott found out Reed was going to make $8.25 an hour while she would make $8.
She called the manager, curious about the 25-cent difference. The manager, a woman, fired her, saying it was against company policy to discuss wages. Reed lost his job too.
Reed said they wanted to speak up so other teens know that they can discuss their wages.
“People are still saying that you shouldn’t discuss wages,” Walcott said. “But I disagree. If you think that you should be getting paid the same as someone else doing the same thing as you, then you should definitely speak up about that.”
The California-based pizza chain has since said the manager was wrong about the policy. The manager was also let go, the company said in a statement. The National Labor Relations Act allows employees to discuss compensation.
“We plan to use this experience to better improve our hiring procedures and policies moving forward,” the company said.
Walcott and Reed’s story has since been picked up by national news outlets from People to Seventeen.
Walcott said Thursday she never thought the story would receive national attention.
“We thought Fox 4 was going to do a story on us, and we thought it might be a big deal to people who know us,” she said.
Despite the national attention, both said the past couple of weeks have been normal — with a few exceptions.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton tweeted about Walcott last week: “Good for you, Jensen. Every woman deserves equal pay, no matter what her age. Keep up the hard work — and courage! -H”
Reed said another highlight was an animated version of their story. At the end, a cartoon version of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump pops out of the phone to fire them.
“I’ve gotten some Facebook messages from people I didn’t know, just telling me they are inspired by me and appreciate me speaking up,” Walcott said.
Both Walcott and Reed have since found other jobs. They are trying to move on.
For working teens, the U.S. Department of Labor breaks down the different labor laws specific for young adults.
The minimum wage varies by state. The minimum wage is $7.25 in Kansas and $7.65 in Missouri.
Teens should also know the rules about operating heavy machinery and workplace safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration advises teens to ask questions if they don’t understand the instructions or if something seems unsafe.