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Pizza Hut boss who refused to force staff to work Thanksgiving says he's no hero

By Faith Karimi, CNN
November 29, 2013 -- Updated 0033 GMT (0833 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "I'm just some guy who told his boss 'No' and got burned," says Tony Rohr
  • He says he refused to open on Thanksgiving Day, and was told to write a letter of resignation
  • The local franchise says he was not fired -- he quit
  • Pizza Hut's corporate office says the franchisee "made a serious error in judgment"

(CNN) -- It's a slice of life you don't often hear about.

Shortly after a manager at a Pizza Hut franchise in Elkhart, Indiana, announced that he was fired for refusing to open on Thanksgiving Day, the company is offering him his job back.

Tony Rohr, 28, had worked for the chain for more than 10 years.

When he refused to open on Thanksgiving Day this year and force his employees to work, he says, he was told to write a letter of resignation. Instead, he wrote one explaining why the store should remain closed.

"I said, 'Why can't we be the company that stands up and says we care about your employees and you can have the day off?'" Rohr told CNN affiliate WSBT Wednesday. "Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only two days that they're closed in the whole year. And they're the only two days that those people are guaranteed to have off to spend with their families."

Who wants to work on Thanksgiving?

Rohr told the affiliate he refused to quit and detailed his frustration in the letter.

"I accept that the refusal to comply with this greedy, immoral request means the end of my tenure with this company," he says he wrote. "I hope you realize that it is the people at the bottom of the totem pole that make your life possible."

He was fired shortly after, he says.

The local franchise told the affiliate that Rohr was not fired, but quit. Now, Pizza Hut's corporate office says the franchise "made a serious error in judgment, one which we hope to help remedy."

It sent CNN a statement that said the store has agreed to hire him back.

"We fully respect an employee's right to not work on a holiday, which is why the vast majority of Pizza Huts in America are closed on Thanksgiving," the corporate office said in a statement. "As a result, we strongly recommended that the local franchisee reinstate the store manager and they have agreed. We look forward to them welcoming Tony back to the team."

But Rohr, who was managing some 15 people when he departed, said Thursday that he was not sure he wanted to return to the team. "That's something I can't decide right away," he told CNN in a telephone interview as he prepared to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family -- and without pizza. "I'll start looking into stuff tomorrow."

He said publicity about the story has spread. "All my friends are telling me how cool it is and how proud they are -- 'You're my hero' and stuff you don't expect to hear," Rohr said. "No, I'm just some guy who told his boss 'No' and got burned. There are people who save lives."

CNN's Tom Watkins and Jose Lesh contributed to this report.

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