Below is a letter that my husband wrote to "Fortune Magazine." The Four Seasons Company has been ranked by them as a top company to work for since its inception in 1998. My husband disagrees and share his thoughts on why:
"Hello, My name is Doug Kohen, I wanted to write a comment on the “100 Best Companies to Work For” article from January 24, 2005. I noticed that The Four Seasons Hotel is on the list, and am not sure I agree with that assessment. My wife and I moved to Chicago in September (I am attending business school at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business). My wife, Amy, used to work as a sous chef for a caterer in Boston, she is trained from a top culinary school, and was looking for a similar position in Chicago.
In September there were not many such opportunities available in Chicago, and my wife took a position as a cook for the The Ritz-Carlton (A Four Seasons Hotel) in Chicago in the Garde Manger department. In the past two months of her employment there, I have been astounded by how poorly the employees are treated. My wife was forced to join a union, UNITE-HERE, and pay a $100 initiation fee as well as $50 in monthly fees. After asking for her union benefits and other information once a week every week without any success, she eventually gave up. The union is set up such that she is not eligible to receive any benefits until after nine months of employment, but has to start paying for benefits after six months. In addition, the first 100 days she is working there is a probationary period during which she can be terminated without any justification.
The job is completely based on seniority as far as desirable shifts, hours per week, available overtime, etc. This is not unexpected, and my wife understood that she had to work the worst shifts on the holidays and only get overtime when there was a dire need. The rub of this is that employees usually get double pay for working holiday hours, except during the 100 day probationary period, so my wife had to work the worst shifts on holidays without any extra compensation. Now in January, as the business has significantly slowed down, they are only giving her 3 days a week of work, all working in the hotel cafeteria. She is nervous that she could be let go at any time because there is not enough work for everyone.
Aside from these union issues, Amy has had to deal with incompetent, egotistical management. Many may say that these characteristics are expected in the culinary industry, however I am surprised every day when I hear about some of the blunders of the upper management, including calling staff meetings at the busiest, most inopportune times just to show their power over their workers; approving vacation time for someone to get married and take their honeymoon only to renege on that promise a month before the date; staffing Amy’s department with a sous chef who did not have background in that area and had to defer to subordinates on many executional issues. I could go on, however I think my point is made.
At any rate, I guess I’m just confused why the Four Seasons is rated in your top 100 companies list, given my wife and her coworkers’ experience with the Chicago hotel. Perhaps this hotel is an anomaly, perhaps Amy’s experience is relatively standard in the hotelling industry. Regardless, I think that the researcher who put this list together should investigate whether this hotel belongs on the list.