Urban Outfitters has asked employees to work for free during the busy holiday rush.
The company is no stranger to controversy, but asking employees to “volunteer” as part of a “team building exercise” for five whole days seems a bit extreme.
Gawker published an email sent to full-time employees at URBN, Urban Outfitters’ parent company based in Philadelphia, asking them to work for free during select days in October.
The email explains that October is the busiest month of the year for URBN (which houses Urban Outfitters, Free People, and Anthropologie), and therefore, URBN needs their help.
According to the email, URBN wants these salaried employees to “volunteer” to “pick, pack, and prepare packages for shipment.”
They call it a “team-building activity.”
Here’s the email in full, per Gawker:
Sent: Tuesday, October 06, 2015 12:01 PM
Subject: A Call For URBN Volunteers!
A Call for URBN Volunteers!
URBN is seeking weekend volunteers to help out at our fulfillment center in Gap, PA. October will be the busiest month yet for the center, and we need additional helping hands to ensure the timely shipment of orders. As a volunteer, you will work side by side with your GFC colleagues to help pick, pack and ship orders for our wholesale and direct customers.
In addition to servicing the needs of our customers, it’s a great way to experience our fulfillment operations first hand. Get your co-workers together for a team building activity!
Who: Home Office URBN salaried employees
Where: URBN’s Fulfilment Center – 766 Brackbill Road, Gap, Pennsylvania 17527
What You’ll Be Doing: Pick, pack and prepare packages for shipment (please wear sneakers and comfortable clothing)
When: October 17, 18, 24, 25, and 31 Lunch will be provided
Two shifts each day: 9:00 AM – 3:00PM or 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM
(you can volunteer for one or multiple days)
Transportation: If needed, URBN will provide transportation to and from GFC (details provided after sign up)
How: Sign up using this link and we will be in touch with more details. Please do not show up without signing up.”
Urban Outfitters has never had the best track record with employees. The company recently put an end on-call scheduling, a practice that for a long time required hourly employees to set aside shifts to work without the guarantee of actually working those shifts.
URBN tells Gawker that employees are actually “excited to help.”
“After successfully opening our new fulfillment center in June, we asked salaried employees at our home office to volunteer for shifts that would help support the new center through a busy month of October. Unsurprisingly, we received a tremendous response, including many of our senior management. Many hourly employees also offered to pitch in – an offer which we appreciated, but declined in order to ensure full compliance with all applicable labor laws and regulations. The dedication and commitment of URBN employees are second to none, and their response to this request is a testament to their solidarity and continued success.”
Excited or afraid they might lose their job if they don’t help out? I’ll let you be the judge.
We reached out to Urban Outfitters as well, and will update when we hear back.