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Friday August 12th

Longtime Alpine Bagel employee fired

Worker says she was fired wrongfully

<p>Lezlie Sumpter, a former employee of Alpine Bagel Cafe in the Student Union, poses in front of the storefront. Sumpter believes she was wrongfully fired.</p>
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Lezlie Sumpter, a former employee of Alpine Bagel Cafe in the Student Union, poses in front of the storefront. Sumpter believes she was wrongfully fired.

But Sumpter, a former manager for Alpine Bagel Cafe, will no longer hold down her post at the cash register at the bagel shop’s location in the Student Union.

Sumpter said she believes she was fired wrongfully.

“This is going to affect me and my chances of getting another job,” she said. “I didn’t ask for any of this.”

Sumpter said she believes she was fired because, as a manager, her salary was higher than other workers, and the bagel shop's business is slow during the summer.

Sumpter said she was shocked to lose her job.

“I’ve given my blood, my sweat and my tears,” she said.

Sumpter said she was never late and never took unapproved leave during her eight years at the bagel shop.

Brett Porter, general manager of Alpine Bagel Co. locations at UNC, declined to comment and referred all questions to Carolina Dining Services.

Porter did not confirm the reason Sumpter said she was fired.

Brandon Thomas, a spokesman for Carolina Dining Services, said he was unable to answer questions about specific employees.

Richard Lindayen, an Alpine employee and junior journalism and political science major, said Sumpter was a good manager.

“Lezlie has always been a kind and genuine person, and of all the places I’ve worked, one of the best managers I’ve ever worked under,” Lindayen said.

Shannon Brien, a member of Student Action with Workers, a campus activist group, said the group is planning to raise awareness about Alpine workers’ situations when students return from summer break.

Brien, who has worked in the Union, said she socialized with Sumpter often.

“She’s always the happiest person,” Brien said. “College can be really rough, but she knows how to take care of people.”

In 2004, Sumpter was fired from a job with Aramark, UNC’s food service provider, for disobeying a confidentiality order after she filed a complaint against her supervisor, according to her 2004 letter of termination.

Sumpter’s firing led to protests including the local chapter of the NAACP and the UNC branch of Students United for a Responsible Global Environment.

Alpine Bagel Co. is contracted by Aramark.

Sumpter said she did not have a contract with Alpine Bagel Co. but said she considered the bagel shop’s employee handbook to be a contract.

Robert Joyce, a professor of public law and government in the School of Government, said employee handbooks are not legally binding documents.

Joyce said workers who do not have contracts are at-will employees who do not have legal recourse against an employer unless a law specifically forbids employment discrimination based on certain specified factors such as race and age.

“An employer may dismiss an at-will employee at any time for any reason — or no reason or a crummy reason — with notice or without notice but not for an unlawful reason,” he said.

“And there are only a handful of unlawful reasons.”

Sumpter said she would take her job back if she could.

“I’ve been on the campus for 20 years,” she said. “I’m going to miss my relationships with students and staff at UNC.”

This article has been updated to include additional information.

University Editor Stephanie Lamm contributed reporting.


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