As the coronavirus pandemic continues to shutter businesses across the country, Oklahoma-based craft store Hobby Lobby is beginning to close its stores, terminating some of its employees in the process. In a termination letter sent to the affected employees, Darsee Lett, vice president of the company's art and creative division, explained that the layoffs are permanent and encouraged employees to file for unemployment benefits.
"As a result of the devastating and unforeseen business circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unfortunately necessary for the Company to terminate your employment effective at the closure of business on Friday, March 27, 2020," the letter began. "This layoff is permanent, and I encourage you to file for state unemployment benefits."
The letter went on to state that in the coming days, employees would have to return their badge and other Hobby Lobby equipment, during which time they would also be given their final check.
"Please Note: We will be sending someone to your home between Monday, March 30th and Thursday, April 2nd to drop off any personal belongings and to pick up your Hobby Lobby issued equipment and badge," it explained. "Please box up any equipment you may have in the box provided at the time you moved it out of the office. You will be contacted by text the day before and day of delivery/pick-up with an approximate time of arrival. Delivery persons will be wearing masks and gloves for all pack-up and delivery to reduce any health risks."
"At this time you will also be given your final check, including any accrued Vacation Pay," it added.
The letter concluded with an apology of sorts, Lett stating that the move has left her with a "broken heart."
"It is with a tremendously broken heart that I've been forced to take these unimaginable actions, and I genuinely hope you know that my prayers are with you and your family," Lett wrote. "It has been such an honor having you on my Team. I truly and deeply appreciate your service to this Department and the Company, and wish you the very best as this calamity hopefully ends in the very near future."
The decision to close stores, which was first confirmed by The Frontier, follows backlash that was prompted after owner David Green stated that his wife had a "vision from God" telling the chain to stay open. It also comes after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses in the state.
Nationally, the coronavirus pandemic has had a heavy toll on the American workforce, with more than 3 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits during the week ending on March 21. The government has since passed a $2 trillion stimulus bill in an effort to provide a jolt to the struggling economy.