Rent the Runway Rolls Out 4-Part Plan to Protect Warehouse Employees amid Coronavirus Pandemic
"The wellbeing of our entire team, especially those working in our warehouses, is of critical importance and has been top of mind as we’ve faced difficult decisions over the last few months," Rent the Runway CEO and co-founder Jennifer Hyman wrote in an internal memo to staff members, shared exclusively with PEOPLE
On Friday, CEO and co-founder Jennifer Hyman sent an internal memo to RTR employees, shared exclusively with PEOPLE, that outlines the specific precautions that have been put into place to protect all workers, addressing the brand’s commitment to keep its staff employed while closely adhering to all safety protocols.
The clothing subscription service plans to implement four new programs to "further support our warehouse team" Hyman wrote.
With warehouses staying up and running — RTR has honored memberships and is still shipping, despite announcing temporary closures of its brick and mortar locations — the billion-dollar company has hired an on-site nurse at both facilities to provide medical care for essential workers.
RTR tells PEOPLE it will also implement listening tours to facilitate open and honest conversations with warehouse workers, giving them an opportunity to voice what they need from their employer during the pandemic. RTR hourly warehouse employees who have continued to work during the nationwide shutdown will also receive a $500 cash bonus "to express our appreciation for their work," Hyman wrote in the memo.
Lastly, RTR is offering voluntary furlough for warehouse associates until the end of June. This enables them to file for unemployment while keeping their healthcare benefits — and knowing they'll have a job to return to when social distancing restrictions are lifted and RTR reopens its doors.
Earlier this week, HuffPost reported that a small group of past and present RTR staffers accused the company of endangering them by keeping warehouses up and running amid the pandemic.
"HuffPost spoke to 22 current and former employees and three former contractors — ranging from entry-level associates to managers in the warehouses, call centers and retail stores — who accuse Rent the Runway of treating them like cogs in a machine while publicly preaching the importance of workplace morality," the article reads.
In her memo Friday, Hyman expressed her disappointment in the report, claiming it has numerous factual errors and "misrepresents our company and our intentions."
She disputed eight major accusations from the HuffPost article, including that RTR was only able to remain open by finding "loopholes" in the system and that RTR only provided warehouse employees with two options: work without hazard pay or stay home and don’t get paid at all.
Hyman instead claims that "all e-commerce businesses across the U.S. are legally allowed to remain open at this time" and that her company offered four flexible options for warehouse employees. She adds that RTR did in fact implement social distancing rules in its warehouses and that garments are thoroughly disinfected to ensure the virus is not spreading within warehouses, disputing accusations in the HuffPost report.
The entrepreneur, who sent her employees a document listing many inaccuracy in the HuffPost article, admitted the decisions she's had to make in recent months were "the most difficult" of her career but unavoidable given the unprecedented circumstances.
"I fully recognize that our actions have had unintended consequences, and I am heartbroken that some of our warehouse associates are struggling right now as a result of the decisions we made," she wrote. "The well-being of our entire team, especially those working in our warehouses, is of critical importance and has been top of mind as we’ve faced difficult decisions over the last few months."
The entrepreneur went on to explain that the decision to keep warehouses open during the shutdown was made for three reasons: to continue paying associates, to continue serving customers and to ensure that the company will eventually be able to bounce back when stores reopen.
"We have been focused on employee safety from the onset of COVID-19 and have been continually evolving our safety protocols to meet or exceed state and federal guidelines," Hyman said in the memo. "We instituted social distancing measures, staggered shifts and implemented new cleaning protocols throughout our warehouses. Masks and gloves were provided to each associate, and wearing them was, and continues to be, mandatory."
RTR laid off retail employees in late March, following temporary closures of its brick and mortar stores located in New York City, Chicago, Washington D.C. and San Francisco. Hyman assured employees that cuts and layoffs were "intentionally prioritized" across corporate, customer experience and retail teams before warehouse employees.
The company is still shipping and continues to honor memberships (which are allowed to be canceled at any time with no extra fees).
Unlimited members have the ability to keep their items at home while their memberships are paused: “We know your needs are changing and want to give you another way to enjoy your rentals without swaps or returns,” the brand said in a release.
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