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Rent the Runway issues statement on employee mistreatment accusations

Published
May 11, 2020
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Designer fashion rental service Rent the Runway (RTR) has issued a response after being slammed for reportedly favoring business over employee wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic. 


Instagram @renttherunway


Throughout the pandemic, Rent the Runway has remained up and running. Although the company's subscribers were given the option to pause their subscriptions, many have continued to use the company's service and wear their designer pieces from home, as multiple Instagram posts tagged #thanksitsrtr and #stayinginwithrtr illustrate.

In order to keep up with demand, Rent the Runway was able to declare itself an essential business thanks to loopholes within executive orders in New Jersey and Texas - the states where the company's only two warehouses are located - according to a report from the Huffington Post.

The report, which interviewed 22 current and former RTR employees and three former contractors, went on to detail a slew of alleged unethical behaviors: as suspected positive Covid-19 cases popped up among workers, the company's warehouse workforce was given the option to either work without hazard pay or choose to not work without wages; warehouses were late to adopt social distancing and otherwise establish a safe working environment; warehouse and retail staff voiced unanswered concerns over the safety of handling used clothes; retail employees were unceremoniously laid-off via a Zoom call, while many customer service workers were laid-off in waves, without warning.

Late last week, the company released a response via Instagram. 

"Like thousands of e-commerce businesses across categories, we remain operational during this unprecedented time to serve our customers and provide employment for our teams - safely," the company said. 

"Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, RTR's sales have dropped significantly. We therefore have had to make difficult decisions to sustain the business by cutting costs across the board. Actions have included corporate employee furloughs, temporary pay reductions, and layoffs." 

Further addressing accusations regarding its treatment of warehouse workers, the company continued: 

"We adjusted our warehouse attendance policy so employees can choose not to work for any reason without any implications. No one is obligated to work if they are not comfortable doing so...all warehouse and hourly employees have been encouraged to take advantage of their benefits during this time, including paid leave." 

The company also said that it has implemented safety measures at its warehouses including requiring employees to wear face masks and gloves, instituting social distancing and boosting its cleaning practices. 

On May 8, Rent the Runway introduced a four-part plan that will give warehouse workers a $500 bonus and the option to accept a voluntary furlough that will allow employees to access unemployment benefits. 

FashionNetwork.com has reached out to Rent the Runway for further comment, but has yet to receive a comment. 

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