Bakery responds to concerns, incorrect information, and embarks on a precedent-setting journey
Amélie’s French Bakery & Café has recently been criticized due to allegations of employee labor and wage violations, racial bias and discriminatory practices spanning from 2013 to the present.
“We missed an opportunity at a crucial time in our community to be a part of the solution, and instead became part of the problem,” explains Frank Reed, CEO and managing member at Amélie’s. “I’m committed to right the many wrongs we’ve often turned a blind eye to in the past.”
After a series of exchanges with advocacy groups and individuals on social media, public comments, and a great deal of introspection, Amélie’s is ready to not only address the allegations but also outline steps they are now taking and will take in the next six months to move in a direction that addresses employee and community concerns.
Amélie’s is committed to rebuilding relationships with organizations, individuals, the greater Charlotte community, and, most importantly, with their employees and team. Here are initiatives already in place or taking place at Amélie’s:
- Amélie’s has hired a third-party organization to conduct an organizational assessment which will include analyzing policies/practices related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. After their findings are presented, Amélie’s will begin implementing their recommendations immediately.
- Amélie’s will provide diversity and inclusivity training for all leadership and staff. In addition to this training, Amélie’s will also provide a clear course of action as it pertains to the ethical treatment of those experiencing homelessness within its community.
- Amélie’s has reinstated exit interviews for all employees.
- Starting in the first quarter of 2021, Amélie’s will begin asking employees about their career plans and aspirations within the company. This will enable leadership to provide training and additional resources to those who want to further their careers in the bakery and restaurant industry in general.
- Amélie’s will hire a full-time human resource professional to handle all employee concerns, hiring, etc. after the COVID pandemic stabilizes.
- Amélie’s will actively seek out small business owners and members of the Black economic system in efforts to partner with in addition to providing monetary donations to local community organizations that support diversity, anti-racism, and social justice issues.
- In 2020, Amélie’s issued a series of social media posts that were tone-deaf and problematic. The statements appeared as if Amélie’s was already working with local organizations to donate food and money to further the mission of the organizations. The organizations listed in the social media posts had not been contacted and the collaborations/partnerships were not yet solidified when the posts went live.
- In 2018, Bill Lamb (one of the original three founders of Amélie’s and a current owner) told a customer at the NoDa bakery location not to “flirt with the help” regarding three Black team members. After the incident, Bill was banned from the NoDa location and has not been involved in day-to-day business decisions since that day.
- In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor investigated Amélie’s labor and wage practices. Amélie’s paid back wages of almost $15,000 to the employees impacted. In the six years since the incident, Amélie’s has not received any formal complaints nor been investigated by the Department of Labor. The leadership that engaged in these practices left the company in 2014.
Incorrectly Shared and Reported Information
There has been some incorrect information shared about Amélie’s. We have included both the incorrect information (italicized) and the corrected information below:
- It has been reported that Amélie’s has a lack of diversity. Fact: Current staff breakdown is over 30% Black, 6% Latinx, and 65% of employees identify as female.
- It was reported that the minimum wage at Amélie’s is $7.25. Fact: Although that is the minimum wage set for North Carolina, the minimum wage at Amélie’s is $8.50 for team members eligible for tips and $10.00 for team members not eligible for tips. The average hourly wage of Amélie’s employees is $11.96 before tips.
- Amélie’s does not care about its employees. Fact: Since 2018, Amélie’s offers Paid Time Off for all employees working a minimum of 35 hours per week that is continually accrued with tenure. Health benefits are offered for any employee working 30 hours or more per week. Amélie’s pays 80% of employee premiums with dental and vision insurance is also available. All employees are eligible to participate in the 401K program and Amélie’s will match $0.50 for every dollar contributed up to 5% of the team member’s annual pay. Also, since March Amélie’s has been sending weekly food boxes to around 30 furloughed employees, as well as continued to cover the health insurance for furloughed team members from April-June of this year.
- Amélie’s has never donated to the Charlotte chapter of the NAACP after it was stated on social media that 100% of sales from the “box of love” initiative over the weekend of June 6 would be donated. Fact: Amélie’s donated 100% of “box of love” sales from the June 6 weekend, $7,536 in total to national NAACP Empowerment Programs instead of to the local chapter. As of June, is fulfilling its pledge by donating monthly to the Charlotte NAACP from “box of love” sales through the end of the year.
- Amélie’s has not been in contact with Feed the Movement CLT since a ZOOM meeting was canceled in June. Fact: Amélie’s leadership did cancel the originally planned ZOOM meeting with Feed the Movement CLT and an in-person meeting was requested instead. Feed the Movement CLT said that they would pick the day, time, and location of the meeting. Amélie’s last correspondence with Feed the Movement CLT was July 2 when Amélie’s agreed to the Feed the Movement CLT meeting request and asked organizers to choose their preferred day, time, and location. No further communication has occurred since.
- Amélie’s does not pay employees for time worked, including overtime, time picking up supplies from other locations, and time to train others. Fact: All staff is paid for time worked. Each bakery has an automated system that allows staff to clock in and out for work. In 2015, Amélie’s enacted a policy stating there would no longer be unpaid breaks. It is not uncommon for a manager or front of house staff member to run to another location to pick up supplies. If someone, usually in a managerial role, runs an errand for Amelie’s that person is paid for their time. Each location has designated trainers who are paid for their time (an additional $1.00 per hour for their training time).
“Knowing that we have let our community and employees down is what hurts the most,” says Reed. “We’re a family. We grew and expanded and may have lost sight about the importance of communicating accurately to all of our stakeholders with dignity, respect, and accuracy. We need to focus on what it is that made Amélie’s so special in the first place, great French pastries, good food, and a welcoming and unique environment. I am committed to ensuring Amélie’s French Bakery is inclusive, supportive, welcoming and that brings joy to all people.”
For additional information or to schedule an interview, please contact Erin Breeden at firstname.lastname@example.org and Jameka Whitten at email@example.com.