Connie Miller isn’t really sure when she’s going to be able to get some sleep over the next three days.
She’ll be working at Kohl’s the day before Thanksgiving, on the holiday itself, and on Black Friday. Her shift on Wednesday ends at 12:30 a.m., and with her half-hour commute, she’ll be home by 1 a.m. Then she’ll have to wake up early so she can get an entire Thanksgiving meal for 15 family members cooked and ready to eat by the time they start to arrive at her house from all over the country at noon. She’ll leave that celebration at 5, arriving at work by 5:30 and working until just after midnight. Then she’ll have to be back at work on Black Friday by 6 in the morning for another eight-and-a-half hour shift. “They don’t even give you time to come home and actually go to sleep before you’re due back,” she said.
“It’s tough, it’s just really tough being open on Thanksgiving,” she added. “I just plan on doing a lot of Red Bull.”
The experience has cast a pallor over her holidays. She knows what it’s going to be like having done nearly the same thing last year. “You hate the holidays. It’s exhausting,” she said. “It’s not a fun time. It’s a time to be dreaded. Because I can’t be with my family.”
Kohl’s did not respond to a request for comment. But it’s not the only employer making its employees jump through hoops to be able to have a Thanksgiving dinner. Eleven brands will be open on the holiday this year, and employees at Kmart, for example, say they weren’t given the option to volunteer or sign up for shifts that fit their schedules and can even risk being fired if they call out for a scheduled holiday shift.
Miller wasn’t given any option to pick her holiday schedule. She says she and her coworkers have been told that they’re not allowed to ask for any time off during the week of Thanksgiving or the week of Christmas. She fears that if she were to call out on Thanksgiving Day, she would be all but dropped from future schedules, losing her income. She’s not sure she would do it anyway. “I’d kind of like to call off, we’d all like to call off. But all it’s going to is make the people I work with in jewelry, their night even harder,” she said. “They’re going to have to hustle even more because I’m not there.”
While she’s technically a part-time employee, she will be scheduled for far more than the typical 25–26 hours a week during these times. But it’s not like she’s given much heads up. She only found out her Thanksgiving schedule ten days ago — leaving little time to adjust holiday plans — and still doesn’t know when she’ll have to work during the Christmas season. “They disrespect us so incredibly by not even telling us the most basic thing,” she said. All without any promise of extra holiday pay.
She finds the whole ordeal particularly ironic at her store. It plays a promo on its overhead speakers telling shoppers that it values family, she said. “We’re working on Thanksgiving… If you valued family, we’d be at home.”