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Glossier touted its decision to close its retail stores as putting 'public health ahead of our bottom line,' but leaked letter reveals that employees urged management to shutter the stores

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  • Glossier was foremost among a number of brands leading the way on combating the spread of the pandemic when it shut its stores on March 13.
  • But a leaked email obtained by Business Insider reveals that Glossier's retail store employees feared for their health and safety in the days leading up to the company's decision to shutter its stores.
  • Roughly 60 Glossier retail employees signed and sent a collective letter to the management on March 12,  "deeply concerned" about their customers' and their own health and safety.
  • Glossier said that it had already been working on a plan to shut its retail locations prior to receiving the letter from employees, who were informed of its decision to shut its retail locations on the same day.
  • But employees told Business Insider that the letter was the result of long-term pent up frustration due to a lack of communication by the management.
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When Glossier shuttered its retail locations on March 13, at the onset of the spread of COVID-19 in the US, it was lauded as leading the way on combating the spread of the pandemic. But in a leaked letter from store employees to management, employees paint a picture of internal confusion and lack of communication over the decision. Business Insider viewed the letter and spoke to three store employees who requested anonymity because employees are not authorized to speak publicly about the company.
In a blog post, Glossier founder and CEO Emily Weiss wrote that she made the "easy, albeit painful" decision given Glossier's position as an industry leader. "From a company perspective, by closing our stores, we'll sacrifice some near-term business goals, but we're prepared to put public health ahead of our bottom line," she wrote.
The leaked email obtained by Business Insider reveals that Glossier's retail store employees feared for their health and safety in the days leading up to Weiss's decision, and banded together to send a collective letter to the company, urging management to close its stores as coronavirus spread through the US.
Roughly 60 Glossier retail employees signed and sent a letter to management on March 12, stating that they were "deeply concerned" about their customers', as well as their own, health and safety in face of the pandemic. The letter has been viewed by Business Insider. The employees said that they wanted management to "take a more comprehensive and proactive, rather than reactionary approach" in their response, the letter said.
"The way that it's [Weiss's post] worded makes it sound like they made the decision to close the store because they care about all of us so much. You didn't do this out of the goodness of your heart. You did this because you had to do it,"  one employee that signed the letter told Business Insider.
A Glossier spokeswoman said that it had already been working on a plan to shut its retail locations prior to receiving the letter from employees, who were informed of its decision to shut its retail locations on the same day. Glossier subsequently furloughed more than a hundred retail employees across New York, Los Angeles, and London in May.
"The safety and wellbeing of our employees have always been our top priority, and we were appreciative that members of our New York retail team took the time to share this feedback. We had already made the decision to temporarily close our stores, and shared that update with all Glossier employees only minutes after receiving the email from our New York retail colleagues, and then publicly shortly after that. In the midst of rapidly-evolving circumstances, we were one of the first companies to close our retail locations to support public health, and we remain proud of that decision," a Glossier spokeswoman said in a statement to Business Insider.

Leaked letter points to "logical inconsistency" between corporate and store employee policies

In the letter, store employees raised concerns about the nature of their jobs and the "potentially fatal" implications of immuno-compromised employees contracting the disease. They also pointed out the "logical inconsistency" of Glossier permitting employees at its headquarters "a few blocks away" to work from home to minimize their risk of contraction, while store employees were still being made to interact with thousands of customers every day.
"...The advent of knowledge that members of HQ are permitted to work from home gives the impression that our safety and health is seen as secondary to those working in HQ," Glossier employees wrote in the letter. "We urge management to take a more proactive measure as this disease spreads and people grow more at risk each passing day."
Corporate employees were given the option of working from home just a few days prior to the decision to close retail stores, on the evening of Tuesday, March 10. Corporate employees were only strongly encouraged to work from home starting on Friday, March 13 — the same day that stores were closed. Headquarters officially closed on Monday, March 16, the company said.
Employees also said that close physical contact with customers "can invariably increase the risk of contraction" in the letter, and said that there was only so much work that could be done "to ensure that products and surfaces are completely and thoroughly sanitized." They also cited safety protocols being followed at competitors, including Mac and Sephora, which were limiting product interaction and providing associates with more thorough sanitation equipment.
Stores had already implemented precautions for increased store safety, such as more frequent cleaning and tester replacement, and increased crowd control, according to the company.
Glossier said that it was transparent and candid with its retail employees throughout a challenging and quickly evolving situation. But employees told Business Insider they felt left in the dark. A lack of communication was also cited by employees after the stores closed and they did not hear from management for a month before they were ultimately furloughed
A second employee who also signed the letter said that she believed that while the store leadership was in favor of closing earlier, they were waiting to get the go-ahead from the higher-ups. That, she said, would explain the employee letter and the management's decision to shut the stores coming on the same day.
"It wasn't clear whether closing was even a possibility just because management was being kind of dodgy about it and not giving anyone a straightforward answer," the second employee said.
Got a tip about Glossier or another direct-to-consumer startup? Contact this reporter via encrypted email at tanyadua@protonmail.com, messaging app Signal at +1 (646) 702-2530, email at tdua@businessinsider.com, or Twitter DM at @tanyadua
SEE ALSO: Glossier store workers brace for layoffs after company tells employees it may stop paying them at the end of May if stores remain closed, leaked email reveals
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* This article was originally published here
https://www.businessinsider.com/glossier-employees-wrote-letter-fearing-for-their-health-and-safety-2020-5
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