Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, driving the U.S. economy and creating jobs in communities around the country. The retail industry impacts the United States economy on a vast scale supporting 1 in 4 jobs, and many chains are forced to undergo corporate restructuring to stay alive.  Macy’s department store is the latest casualty in the war against brick and mortar stores remaining viable in the current consumer climate.  Macy’s announced a massive restructuring that would involve shuttering 125 department stores, cutting 2,000 jobs and closing three corporate offices. Often seen as a mall anchor store, Macy’s joins a growing list of brick-and-mortar retailers that have struggled in recent years with the rise of e-commerce giants and changing consumer tastes. Success in the evolving retail environment is not about short term success in each quarter, it is about next year and the years to come. The layoffs come as Macy’s stores are losing foot traffic to online shopping. The company is closing its second headquarters in Cincinnati and moving those operations to New York.  Macy’s troubles reflect the downward trend in the retail industry as online shopping takes potential customers away from physical locations.

“At will” versus “contracted” employee.

Most employees work at will, which means employers can lay them off or fire them for any reason that is not illegal at any time.  Financially struggling entities can cut jobs as necessary but some layoffs may not be legal.  The corporate employees may have an employment contract changing the at-will relationship. For example, if you have a two-year contract, stating that you can be fired only for committing a crime or for gross financial malfeasance against the company, you aren’t an at-will employee. If you are fired for any reason other than the ones specified in your contract, you can sue, even if your employer’s reason for letting you go was perfectly reasonable which may mean in the face of financial difficulties the employer must offer you a chance to keep your job by offering a choice such as moving to the New York office in this case.  Corporate financial hardships generally supply the necessary good cause to allow an employer to let workers go.

Restructuring and layoff.

The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires employers who conduct certain large-scale layoffs or plant closings to give employees a certain amount of advance notice. If you didn’t get the required notice, and your employer doesn’t fall into one of the law’s exceptions, then you may be entitled to pay for every day of notice you should have received, up to 60 days. Note that the WARN Act doesn’t prohibit employers from laying employees off; it requires only that they provide advance notice or pay for failing to do so.

Employment law deviations.

In the past, Macy’s was cited when employees were forced to work double shifts and additional overtime for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by holding off on “punching in” unfairly showing less hours on timecards.  Another instance revealed violations of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) seeking relief, including back pay and reinstatement, compensatory and punitive damages and non-monetary corrective actions to Macy’s standard operating practices.

When the 2,000 jobs are cut and the corporate offices are closed, how will the individuals be compensated for the time they have worked at the retail giant?  A lawyer who specializes in employment law may be able to help with severance packaging for exempt employees who are contracted workers at Macy’s, and monitor human resource activities as they work with non-exempt employees who are victims of layoff.

 

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