hobby lobby

By Shereen Siewert

Hobby Lobby is furloughing an estimated 639 workers in Wisconsin including 27 employees at the company’s Rib Mountain location, according to a state Department of Workforce Development WARN notice.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act helps ensure advance notice in cases of qualified plant closings and mass layoffs.

According to an April 3 layoff notice submitted to the state, the furloughs are meant to be temporary. Company officials will “periodically evaluate the circumstances to determine when and if we will return employees to regular employment.”

The decision is based on the “sudden, dramatic and unexpected downturn in business caused by the coronavirus natural disaster, including a drastic decrease in customers, a substantial loss of revenue, and the unforeseeable store closure on March 25,” the notice states.

All affected employees have been notified of their furlough dates.

The company came under fire after reopening nearly all of its stores in Ohio and Wisconsin despite orders that non-essential retail businesses close during this phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Business Insider, the retailer resumed business on March 30 at locations that had been closed for up to a week.

The West Allis, Wis. Police Department shut down an open Hobby Lobby store on March 30, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The retailer tried to keep stores in other states, including North Carolina and Colorado, open despite state government orders to close.

Hobby Lobby finally closed all of its stores in the U.S. April 3.

A large portion of corporate and distribution employees will also be furloughed, according to a statement from the company.