- Hobby Lobby is closing all of its stores nationwide and furloughing most of its employees, according to a statement shared on the company’s website Friday afternoon.
- Beginning Friday, Hobby Lobby will be “ending emergency leave pay and suspending use of company provided paid time off benefits and vacation,” the statement said.
- The announcement came after the craft store quietly reopened stores in several states, in defiance of state-mandated lockdowns that called for the closure of nonessential businesses.
- “The line our manager gave us was, ‘The employees got what the employees wanted; the stores were closed,'” a Hobby Lobby employee in Indiana told Business Insider.
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After quietly reopening stores across the country in defiance of coronavirus-related state lockdown orders, Hobby Lobby is closing all stores nationally and furloughing employees.
In a statement posted on the company website on Friday afternoon, Hobby Lobby announced it would furlough “nearly all store employees” and be “ending emergency leave pay and suspending use of company provided paid time off benefits and vacation.”
“As the country continues efforts to manage and mitigate the devastating health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 virus, Hobby Lobby will, after careful consideration, close the remainder of its stores, and furlough nearly all store employees and a large portion of corporate and distribution employees, effective Friday, April 3rd, at 8:00 p.m.,” Hobby Lobby posted on its website. “The stores will remain closed until further notice.”
According to two employees, each speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution but whose employment status and identities were confirmed by Business Insider, managers at their stores called teams into a meeting to deliver the news on Friday afternoon. During the meetings, they were told the furlough would affect all workers below management level and was expected to run through at least May 1.
An employee in Indiana told Business Insider his manager said she would continue to work, though she “has no idea why she will still be there” if stores are closed.
“The line our manager gave us was, ‘The employees got what the employees wanted; the stores were closed,'” the Indiana employee said in an interview shortly after he learned of the furlough. “My question was, ‘Did God tell them they needed to close the stores and not pay us?'”
‘Make every effort to continue working the employees’
The announcement comes following controversy for Hobby Lobby after the craft-store chain refused to close its stores and join the nearly 100 major retailers that have temporarily shuttered to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
While each state has autonomy in defining parameters around what is considered an essential business, craft stores are not included in the list of universally accepted essential businesses, nor do they appear in a guidance on the subject provided by the Department of Homeland Security.
In its announcement on Friday, Hobby Lobby maintained that it was essential and claimed that it had “implemented several best practices to provide a safer shopping environment” for shoppers and consumers. These methods included “the installation of physical barriers between customers and cashiers, enhanced cleaning, and the enforcement of social distancing measures” — tactics which employees told Business Insider this week were either not enforced or were not sufficient in making them feel safe.
“We know our customers relied on us to provide essential products, including materials to make personal protective equipment, such as face masks, educational supplies for the countless parents who are now educating their children from home, and the thousands of small arts and crafts businesses who rely on us for supplies to make their products,” Hobby Lobby wrote in the statement.
In a series of leaked memos obtained by Business Insider, Hobby Lobby initially refused to give employees paid sick leave and instead required ill workers to use up their paid-time-off and vacation days, before implementing an “emergency pay” program. Prior to the furlough, this emergency pay was slated to be 75% of an employee’s regular earnings based “on the average hours [worked] during the previous six weeks.”
Additionally, company executives told managers it would “make every effort to continue working the employees” and later provided them with talking points for “how to respond and communicate if they are visited by a local authority that asks why we are open,” according to a memo obtained by Business Insider.
“We are prepared to reopen our stores in a responsible way when the current situation improves, and look forward to welcoming our valued customers back to our stores,” Hobby Lobby wrote in the statement on Friday. “Until then, we pray for those affected by the virus, protection for the health care professionals caring for the sick, economic security for all impacted businesses and employees, and wisdom for our leaders.”