Nordstrom is laying off workers and cutting hours and wages for those who remain

Nordstrom is laying off workers and cutting hours and wages for those who remain
Associated Press
  • Nordstrom is quietly cutting positions at its stores, according to interviews with six employees.
  • Employees who spoke with Business Insider said they received calls from their managers asking them whether they would be comfortable returning to work. Three workers said they were let go after expressing doubts to their managers during those phone calls.
  • At the same time, two workers said stores were reducing hours for employees who did return to work.
  • Representatives for Nordstrom did not return Business Insider's requests for comment on this story.

Nordstrom is laying off store workers and cutting hours and wages for some employees that remain, according to interviews with six employees.

The layoffs come as Nordstrom reopens its stores following COVID-related shutdowns.

Representatives for Nordstrom did not return Business Insider's requests for comment on this story.
Nordstrom furloughed many of its store workers when the company shut all its locations in mid-March. In recent weeks, Nordstrom representatives have called furloughed employees and asked whether they are comfortable returning to work, in some cases for positions paying just 50% of what they were previously earning, according to four people who received the calls.

How employees have answered that question has determined whether they would be fired from their jobs, employees said.

A cosmetics manager at a Nordstrom store in California said she got a call from a company representative in mid-July who told her that the store had made some changes to employees' roles and that everyone would be paid $13.50 an hour.

That's about half what the Nordstrom manager was previously earning in wages and commission, she said. She and the other five employees who spoke to Business Insider shared their stories on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

The representative asked if the manager was comfortable returning to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. "I said, 'I feel a little trepidatious because we're seeing a second peak nationwide,'" the manager said.

The representative then asked the manager to confirm that she was uncomfortable working amid the pandemic.

"As soon as I said 'correct,'" the manager said, the representative told her that she was being terminated.

Shocked by the sudden turn of events, the manager quickly backtracked and said she was ready and willing to work.

The representative then told her the store had no hours available and would call her when it does, and that she would be earning $13.50 an hour.

"So then I got off the phone… and I sat there like, 'what the hell just happened? I think I just lost my counter manager job,'" the manager said. "There's no promise of hours and no job description. I don't even know the title."

"It would have been nice if they had been more straightforward. It's like trickery," she said of the phone call.

'We're the ones who make the money. We're the ones that keep the lights on.'

Three Nordstrom employees who spoke with Business Insider described similar conversations with their managers.

One, a former commission-earning manager at a Nordstrom store in San Jose, California, said she was surprised when she was told that if she came back to work, her job responsibilities could vary from fulfilling web orders to making sure there weren't too many people using the bathrooms at once.

"I was really kind of thrown off by the job titles. I assumed it would look different, but I don't think I expected a bathroom attendant," she said.

This former employee, along with another who spoke with Business Insider, said they were also wary of accepting positions as door greeters, which would require them to give people a mask to wear if they were not already wearing one.

"I'm not comfortable being a door greeter and being that person to tell somebody else to wear a mask. I don't really feel comfortable with that," the former manager said. "Because I know that people can get upset by somebody else telling them what they can or can't do." Three employees who said they were unsure about coming back to work — either because of a personal situation or because they had questions about the precautions Nordstrom was taking to protect employees — told Business Insider they were notified shortly after phone conversations with their managers that they would no longer be employed by the department store. Based on these conversations, they were under the impression that a significant number of store positions were being eliminated.

"They marked it as a voluntary resignation because [workers] were technically offered the hours and declined," said another former employee who had worked at a California store for 10 years before being laid off in mid-July.

None of them were offered severance packages, and declining a job offer makes receiving employment benefits more difficult.

Since Nordstrom recently eliminated its in-store HR positions, laid-off employees were given a number at a call center that they should contact if they had any questions.

One worker who was laid off from her sales associate job at a Nordstrom store in Atlanta in June said that her hours had been drastically reduced when she returned to work the month before. She worried about how she was going to pay her rent.

"It was dead. You probably had a few customers a day in there," she said.

At least one other worker, an employee at a store in the greater Los Angeles area, said that hours had been dramatically cut for those who had decided to return to work.
"If it's too slow in the store they are sending people [who were scheduled to work] home," this employee said.

A handful of Instagram accounts have popped up to anonymously document the experiences of Nordstrom workers who are returning to work amid the pandemic. One, @nordycares, has nearly 1,500 followers, while another, @nordstromcrisis, has over 900.

"I'm waiting to hear, where's the statement about this, that they're slashing their workforce?" said the employee who had worked with Nordstrom for 10 years.

"We're the ones who make the money. We're the ones that keep the lights on."

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