Like Wet Seal employees across the country, Allyson Lewis came back from her holiday break to find out that her Plano, Texas store was closing and she would be out of a job in two days.
“Most of us didn’t find out until that Thursday the 1st that the last day was Saturday,” she told ThinkProgress.
Wet Seal has been struggling financially in recent years. It lost more than $150 million in the last two years and reported a $36 million loss in the third quarter of last year alone. In December, it announced that “there is substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern.” It also paid $7.5 million to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit in 2013 that alleged it fired black employees in favor of blond and blue-eyed ones.
And while Lewis doesn’t know what happened in other stores, employees allege that in some cases they have been given a single day’s notice that their stores would close and they would be laid off. In response, many have launched a protest of the short notice and other alleged mistreatment from management. In a Seattle store, employees supposedly put up a poster in their store window saying employees who worked there for years were given a single day’s notice that the store would close and they would lose their jobs. Images of posters in other stores cropped up on Twitter. Workers have also taken to social media to air complaints with the hashtags #ForgetWetSeal, #BoycottWetSeal, and #ClubWetSeal.
A Wet Seal spokesperson said it has no comment at this time.
Lewis said she had only worked at Wet Seal since the end of September — “I love their clothes,” she explained. When she got back from visiting home in North Carolina, she called her assistant manager to find out her schedule but was told that the store’s racks and counters were nearly empty of merchandise. “I thought for a minute…they were only closing our store because the mall didn’t get that much business,” she said. “But when I saw they were closing other stores, I was like, ‘Wow.’” That meant she and her coworkers would simply be fired rather than given the chance to transfer to another location.
A few days later her store manager called her. “She sounded so sad, I felt so bad,” Lewis says. “She basically told me the store’s officially closing and tomorrow will be our last day.”
Lewis herself is 18 and still has support from her parents, who are helping her fill out an application for unemployment benefits while she applies for other jobs. But her other coworkers aren’t as lucky. “I know that two of [the managers] were really pissed,” she said. “They’re older so they really needed that income.”
“They could have told us at the end of December and probably so many people wouldn’t be so mad, because that gives you a whole month to find another job,” she said.
The three Wet Seal employees in Seattle who put up the poster that went viral say they were fired for their actions, meaning they won’t be able to work in the final week that the store is open.