Target: Wet Seal CEO Edmond Thomas
Goal: Pay laid-off employees the money they are owed
When employees at the Wet Seal store at the Northgate Mall in Seattle, Wash. found out their store was one of 300 to be closed, they spoke up. The store manager and assistant managers put up a sign on the store’s window outlining their grievances. The sign was then photographed by a customer and posted to Reddit, where it went viral. The next day, the store manager and the two assistant managers who helped with the sign and came to her defense were fired.
The employees certainly had cause to complain. They were given one day’s notice to find new jobs and were told they would have to reapply to other Wet Seal locations if they wanted to stay with the company they’d worked with for years—transfers were not accepted. Any unused vacation or paid sick leave was forfeited, and with a 19-week blackout on their schedule, many employees hadn’t had the opportunity to cash out their vacation at all. Wet Seal cited financial hardship as the reason for the closing stores, but the company’s CFO received a $95,000 raise in 2014 while a five-year employee of the Northgate store received their first raise, a mere 16 cents, that year. Sales associates were told they had one remaining day of work and managers were offered a bonus if they stayed over the weekend to close the store. Because they were understaffed for the clearance rush, two sales associates came in to help without pay.
Wet Seal left its employees in a horrible situation. While they might be within their legal rights to do so, big companies are notorious for exploiting lower-paid workers while high-ranking employees reap big benefits. Wet Seal is suffering financially, but that doesn’t mean the company should be able to deny its employees the vacation and sick pay they’ve accrued through years of hard work. Transfers to different stores should be a possible avenue for new work—forcing a store manager who’d been with the company for eight years to reapply is humiliating and unfair.
Wet Seal needs to make reparations for how it treated its employees by paying them the money they are owed from vacation and sick pay and opening the possibility of transfers to other stores, even to those who were fired. As the Northgate store’s manager said, “I get that, legally, they can do this. It doesn’t make it right.” Urge Wet Seal’s CEO to do the right thing and pay these employees what they’re owed and assist them in the process of finding a new position within the company by signing the petition below.
Dear Mr. Thomas,
With the financial hardship Wet Seal is facing, it’s understandable that some stores would have to shut down. Employees at the Northgate Wet Seal in Seattle, Wash. aren’t protesting that their store is shutting down—they’re upset with the way the company has handled their dismissal. These employees were given one day to find a new job and denied the option of transferring to another store. To add to it all, their sick and vacation pay can’t be cashed out, even though their calendar has been under a 19-week blackout that means they couldn’t have asked for any days off. Some of these employees showed their distaste for the company’s actions by making a sign that was posted on Reddit and attracted a lot of attention. The employees involved were fired.
Wet Seal is within its rights to fire its employees, but it wouldn’t have been necessary if the company had treated its employees well. One employee of the Northgate store had been given one 16-cent raise in five years of employment, while your company’s CFO was given a $95,000 raise in 2014. No sales associate expects a $95,000 raise, but after five years, an employee deserves more than 16 cents.
This mistreatment of entry-level employees is terrible for the company’s image. Wet Seal is already struggling financially, but the attention this sign and the subsequent firing of the employees has attracted is only going to make things worse. You can fix this—apologize for the mistreatment of these employees and take steps to make it better. Pay those who have been laid off the vacation pay and sick leave they rightfully accrued, and open up transfers to other stores.
You have the power to fix your company’s image. Please do the right thing and show appreciation for the sales associates and managers who keep your stores running by paying them what they’re owed and giving them the opportunity to transfer to new stores.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Coolcaesar via Wikimedia Commons