Retail and customer experience were among the teams most affected, the latter of which had been attempting to form a union in recent months. Of the 57 customer experience employees forming a union, 42 were let go.
The news got the attention of U.S. senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who turned to Twitter to denounce using a “health and economic crisis to union bust,” and called on Everlane to recognize the union and bring those workers back on payroll.
Founder Michael Preysman responded to Sanders via the Everlane Twitter account with a document outlining the current state of business and explained that the brand laid off all part-time associates regardless of department, and furloughed full-time retail employees so they could keep their benefits. Remaining customer experience team members were made made full-time and given benefits.
“This was not about the union. We shut down our stores 14 days ago and they will be closed indefinitely,” Preysman said in the tweet. “The total business has been significantly impacted. We are not profitable and do not have a cash balance.”
Layoffs came as a surprise to employees, as the brand hadn’t previously communicated to them that it was struggling with declining online sales.
However, in a memo obtained by Vice, Preysman noted that he was not taking a salary and that senior leadership was reducing theirs by 25 percent. The media outlet also noted that a portion of the retail employees still involved with the brand will be trained on customer service responsibilities.
Everlane was founded in 2010 as an online-only brand with an ethical focus. It opened its first flagship store in New York, followed by San Francisco, in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Brands and retailers of all sizes continue to struggle with the effects of the coronavirus. Nordstrom, Sears, H&M, Kohl’s, Gap and Macy’s are some of the biggest names forced to lay off or furlough a significant portion of their teams as a result.