Former Chico’s employees laid off due to COVID-19 protest in front of retail stores

Reporter: Morgan Rynor
Published: Updated:

On Monday, about a dozen former Chico’s employees participated in a protest outside one of the Southwest Florida stores because of the way they say the company treated them.

They say hundreds of employees with years of experience were laid off.

Just a few months ago—Chicos celebrated the opening of brand name stores.

Former employees were holding signs and chanting— they say they were let go and not given any severance other than one month of medical coverage as a courtesy.

“Last year I got an excellence award, and today I’m a dollar sign. I’m just a number to them,” said Laura Melbourne, a former employee.

I’ve served them for 14 years, and honestly, I’ve saved them millions and millions of dollars in what I do, and to just be told that you’re getting nothing. I asked are you offering severance and they said absolutely not,” said Rachal Dasilva, a former Chico’s employee.

The company says they are starting phase 1 of reopening—which includes filling national orders from store inventory. The next step is encouraging everyone to order online and pick up in the store.

In this SEC filing last week, Chico’s announced that despite the coronavirus, the company posted one of the fastest turnarounds in fashion retail.

The company said it’s experienced three consecutive quarters of unprecedented growth, including a spike in sales.

The layoffs are part of a company restructuring plan that included promoting Molly Langenstein to CEO. She joined the company nine months ago from Macy’s.

We got a statement from outgoing Chico’s CEO Bonnie Brooks.:

“Last week the company had to make decisions that resulted in people losing their jobs. These decisions were heartbreaking for us and for our teams to make, and under normal circumstances would never have happened. But these are unprecedented circumstances.

“All of our 1340 stores have been closed for the past seven weeks. Our stores are our main source of revenue. The company has already cut its expenses across all areas, is not paying rent to its landlords and has stopped or slowed all payments to vendors for all products. All of our Ft. Myers headquarters employees without exception, including the board of directors, have taken a 50% cut in pay or are on furlough.

“Under normal circumstances, the company would not be laying off its valued team members without severance, however, the government stimulus package was designed specifically for cases like ours, where companies can simply no longer pay all of their employees, and the stimulus payments are not available while one is receiving a severance.

“The company is committed to maintaining as many employees as possible in Ft. Myers. Some of our employees are deeply affected by the loss of their jobs and of course do not feel this is fair, which we understand, because nothing about the impact of this virus on our employees or any employee who loses their job, is fair. Nothing about the world’s economic crisis due to the pandemic is fair.”

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