Sephora employees blindsided by mass layoffs during coronavirus shutdown

The makeup store laid off 3,754 part-time and seasonal workers this week.
/ Source: TODAY
By Alyssa Newcomb

Sephora employees said they were given less than a one hour warning this week to jump on a conference call, where a district manager took a roll call of employees and then announced they were all laid off.

"They notified us we had two different districts on the call. They called out our names by roll call and they let us know we were being laid off," said the employee, who worked in the Inland Empire District in Southern California. She asked that TODAY not use her full name out of concern for her future job prospects.

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A second employee who was on the call echoed the statement.

"It's not OK for a billion dollar company to drop their employees like trash during this," she said.

Another employee in Dallas-Forth Worth shared screenshots of the meeting request that also confirmed she was given 18 minutes notice before a call with her district.

A Sephora representative confirmed to TODAY Style that the company laid off 3,754 part-time and seasonal employees this week and announced that stores in the United States and Canada will remain closed beyond the initial April 3 deadline the company had given. This comes despite a promise from Sephora to make sure "all store employees will continue to receive their base pay for scheduled shifts for the duration of this closure."

"With the extended store closure and reality of the situation right now, we need to continue to navigate this crisis responsibly to ensure the long-term health of our business. With a smaller workforce required to execute in this new environment, we have made the difficult decision to let go of a portion of our part-time and seasonal store employee base," the company told TODAY Style in a statement.

Those employees are being offered "support resources," such as connecting them with companies that might be hiring right now, according to Sephora.

The three laid off employees who spoke with TODAY Style said they were offered one week of severance pay, which was based on the average number of hours they had worked per week over the past six weeks.

"I was extremely upset. Sephora doesn't pay commission. We don't receive tips. We just get paid $12 per hour to work as much as we do," one California employee said. "Me and my coworkers all work hard because we truly love our jobs. The fact we all put up so much effort and they fired us after promising to help us during the coronavirus shutdown is awful."

Another employee who was with Sephora for four years in Dallas-Forth Worth and worked between 22 and 38 hours per week for $12.53 per hour, said the experience was handled poorly.

"Our store director began to read from a script that all part-time employees are going to be laid off because Sephora can not afford to continue to pay you through the pandemic," she said. "We all immediately starting crying our eyes out on camera. As soon as she was done, the call ended and that was that."

A Sephora spokesperson said the company hopes to be "able to bring these employees back on staff in the near future."

"This prolonged crisis has required many companies to make tough decisions, and we are no different," the company said in a statement. "With a strong future in mind, we believe our decisions now will help ensure we are able to reopen our doors for our community when that time comes."

The brand continued to explain how they came to make this difficult decision: "We also recognize that we are in a position to support the collective fight against COVID-19. Following guidance from public health authorities, we understand that practicing social distancing and reducing dense public gatherings as much as possible is critically important at this time. This is truly a global effort that requires all of our participation."

Sephora has more than 9,000 remaining employees, who will continue to receive 100% of their pay based on the average hours they previously worked each week, the company said. That offer runs until late May or whenever the stores reopen, whichever happens soonest.

Still, the employees who were let go said they are struggling to figure out their next steps.

"The district manager told us to file for unemployment, I don't have job offers and I don't know when unemployment is coming," said one of the California employees. "When we stopped working in store, we were promised we would be taken care of and I would have my job there when everything calmed down. I'm very upset. It's like, what am I going to do with my life?"