Teen fast-fashion mecca Forever 21 has come under fire on social media after a leaked memo shared the retailer's plans to "reclassify" some full-time employees' jobs to part-time status, cutting their benefits and limiting their hours to no more than 29.5 a week.
Customers and other critics expressed their outrage with hundreds of comments on social media sites, threatening to boycott the store over the decision and calling the move an effort to avoid stipulations of the Affordable Care Act. The legislation requires employers to provide health insurance for all employees that work 30 or more hours a week.
In a response that the company has posted repeatedly on Facebook, the retailer says it "staffs its stores based on projected store sales, completely independent of the Affordable Care Act." The recent decision, it says, affects 196 employees, or less than 1 percent of all U.S. store workers. As part of the statement, Forever 21 also noted that it has promoted and converted 421 part-time store employees to full-time status since March of this year.
Still, that's not doing much to slow down the uproar. Even if Forever 21′s move is just a simple business decision that affects a relatively small number of employees, it nonetheless has all the elements to make it an outsized target of online outrage. Combine not only a political wedge issue and a popular brand of clothing but a company that publicly identifies itself as Christian, and you're left with a particularly potent cocktail for viral attention.
That last issue-the perceived conflict some critics see between Christian values and the decision to cut workers' benefits-appears to be driving no small part of the online criticism being lobbed at the retailer. Forever 21 prints John 3:16 on its shopping bags, reportedly keeps Bibles at company headquarters, and was founded by the deeply religious Do Won Chang and Jin Sook, who don't shy away from their faith. "I hoped others would learn of God's love," Chang said through a translator in a CNN interview last year. "So that's why I put [the scripture on the bags]."
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SOURCE: The Washington Post
Jena McGregor is a columnist for On Leadership.