Leaked Memo From Hobby Lobby Reveals Executives Told Managers to Insist Company Is 'Essential'

As businesses across the country close their doors amid the coronavirus pandemic, some Hobby Lobby locations are continuing to operate as "essential businesses" amid stay-at-home orders. In an internal memo sent to managers in those states with mandatory lockdowns, Hobby Lobby's vice president of store operations, Randy Betts, ordered stores to remain open and laid out guidelines for managers on how to handle local authorities.

"There are emergency orders in effect throughout the country," Bett wrote in the March 28-dated note, which was obtained by Business Insider. "These could be issued by the state Governor, or the Country, or the city, and the federal government. In stores that are open, and there is an emergency order issued where that store is located, the DM needs to guide store management in how to respond and communicate if they are visited by a local authority that asks why we are open."

"You and the DM must identify the specific reason within the emergency order that provides that store permission to be open," it adds. "The reasons could be: because we sell educational materials, because we sell products for home based businesses, or because we sell materials to make PPE (personal protective equipment.) Or other reasons that can be identified in an order. You must inform the manager why we are allowed to be open."

The memo goes on to note that "if visited by an authority the most important thing the manager must convey is a respectful tone" and that "If they are told they need to close, it's yes sir, yes ma'am, I will call my boss right now."

The memo followed a similar one sent by Bett just last week that explained "is going to make every effort to continue working the employees."

Employees at locations that have remained open report that signs on the doors read that Hobby Lobby is "Operating as an Essential Business. Offering PPE Mask supplies, Educational Supplies, Office supplies, and various components for at Home small businesses." Some employees, however, have cast doubt on those claims.

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"Hobby Lobby is fighting that we are an essential store," an employee at a North Carolina location wrote in an email to Business Insider. "There is absolutely nothing in Hobby Lobby worth spreading this illness. I'm honestly appalled at this company and the way it doesn't care for its employees and only about making their money."

At this time, it remains unclear how many Hobby Lobby locations remain open, though employees and customers in Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio have reported doors still being open. Meanwhile, other locations have begun to close, with Hobby Lobby terminating employees and cutting salaries.