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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: You wouldn’t ask a doctor to work weekends for free

As the holiday season slowly approaches, the time comes for businesses to prepare and think of different strategies to make more money — or as Urban Outfitters strategizes, save more money.

The clothing retailer, which operates more than 230 stores, sent an email asking its salaried employees to work for free on weekends during the holiday season to help with packing and preparing packages for wholesale or direct customers. This inappropriate request not only devalues its employees’ work but also assumes that they aren’t busy during the holidays.

This may sound like a preposterous idea to most people, but an Urban Outfitters spokesperson told CNBC that it “received a tremendous response,” and even hourly employees wanted to help out.

The retailer stated that it had to reject the help offered from hourly employees in order to ensure that no laws were broken with this request.

“Unfortunately, many U.S. companies use the existing laws pertaining to salaried employees as a means of decreasing labor expenses on the back of these salaried employees,” said UA senior finance lecturer Charles Ruscher.

Even though the company’s spokesperson claimed that the employees were responding well, it doesn’t change the fact that this request was very demeaning to its employees. It is like saying that their hard work is not worthy of any pay or acknowledgement.

While Urban Outfitters Inc. CEO Richard Hayne enjoys his glamor and fame on Forbes’ billionaire list for his net worth of over $1 billion, his employees are straining their bodies for less than they deserve. The company’s statement about not accepting help from hourly employees was like putting a nice face to mask the true disrespect of its request.

Of course the company can expect its customers to pay over $150 for a cardigan, but it’s not willing to spend a bit more in either hiring seasonal employees or handing out bonuses to be able to manage with the holidays.

It doesn’t make much sense for a company to set high prices for clothing while contributing to economic struggle of the working class.

However, Urban Outfitters isn’t the only one to blame. During a time in which equity and a higher minimum wage are so important, it is contradicting that even employees accept such a disrespectful request.

There may be incentives for employees to agree to volunteer their holiday weekends, such as hoping for a higher salary in the future or hoping for a bonus at the end of the year, but those hopes are lost in corporate America.

But at the end of the day, these volunteering employees may be giving their time and sacrificing their health for the sake of hope for something that may never come.

This agreement implies that workers are desperate enough to work for less than they deserve, therefore companies can just take advantage of those willing to run the extra mile.

It is saying that it is alright for companies to strain our bodies simply to save them from the expense and hassle of hiring new personnel.

What Urban Outfitters doesn’t realize is that there may be a catch to its budgeting strategy at the end of the day.

UA assistant professor of management and organizations Allison S. Gabriel explained that “by asking employees to work additional hours, they are significantly over-exerting themselves, which can lead to a variety of strains such as burnout [and] fatigue.”

With that being said, the company may believe it is saving money, but given the potential health issues that this added stress may cause the workers, it may cost them more money in the long run when required to hire and train new employees to fill in places for those who couldn’t continue as a result of poor health, burnout or general disinterest in working for a company that doesn’t value them.

It is easy for companies to conclude that retail work isn’t very difficult or stressful when they’re too busy indulging their riches brought by the employees.

Considering there is much flexibility in laws concerning the pressure put on salaried employees, it is up to the workers to put their feet down when they have to.

Working for the hope of getting paid more isn’t going to help with anything when health deteriorates or it’s time to pay the bills.

Follow Genesis Lara on Twitter.

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