Former Canada Goose employees allege layoffs via email ‘inhumane’

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Former Canada Goose employees allege layoffs via email ‘inhumane’
WATCH: Luxury parka maker Canada Goose announced sweeping layoffs to its workforce on March 26 and staff at the Toronto office tell Global News they’re shocked, disheartened and disappointed by the way they were informed of their terminations. One person called their treatment “inhumane” and “traumatic.” Anne Gaviola has this exclusive story – Apr 5, 2024

When Canada Goose employees received an email on Monday, March 25, telling them not to come into the office the following day, they feared the worst.

The last time they received a directive like that was in August and it preceded a round of layoffs.

This time around there were terminations too, but with one key difference: people were informed of their layoff from the luxury parka maker via email.

The decision to approach terminations this way was described as “inhumane,” and “disheartening” by three former employees who spoke with Global News and shared some of the email communications they received on condition of anonymity.

Global is protecting their identities as they fear repercussions for speaking with the media and worry it may harm their future employment prospects.

“Being terminated after years of being successful at your job is traumatic,” one laid off worker tells Global News. “It’s being done through emails and you really feel like you’re just a number and you didn’t matter.”

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In a statement to Global News on Thursday, Canada Goose’s chief human resources officer Jess Johannson said: “decisions like this are heartbreaking — we understand the human impact they have, and we know there’s no perfect way to share this kind of news.”

She went on to say, “our focus was to ensure that our team members were treated with respect and dignity and given the grace to process the news on their own time.”

‘Completely shocked’

On March 26, Canada Goose CEO Dani Reiss announced “sad news” in a LinkedIn post: the company was laying off 17 per cent of its global corporate workforce. He said the job cuts put the company in a better position for scaling and will help the Toronto-based business focus on efficiency and brand, design and operational initiatives.

Shortly after 9 a.m. that day, employees received two emails: one from Reiss laying out the restructuring plans; another from Canada Goose Human Resources contained notices of termination for those who were being laid off.

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“I was completely shocked and I was truly blindsided,” one former employee said.

Johannson points out that every employee affected was invited to schedule a virtual meeting with “a Human Resources Business Partner.” She says that while some employees chose to schedule those immediately, others opted to speak at a later time.

Canada Goose said the meeting could happen “as soon as they [the former employee] want to.”

Two of the former workers say that putting the onus on people who had just received termination notices to schedule a follow-up with HR was “traumatic.”

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One of them claimed they didn’t “get human contact for hours after notice” and human resources was “not proactively reaching out.”

When asked about these specific claims, Canada Goose referred to its earlier statement from Johannson that said the focus was “to ensure that our team members were treated with respect and dignity and given the time to process the news on their own time” and that affected employees were able to schedule a meeting “at a time that worked best for the employee.”

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The company reiterated: “We know there’s no perfect way to share this kind of news” and “some employees chose to schedule those [meetings] immediately, while others appreciated the opportunity to speak at a later time.”
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The former employee called it “disheartening because I think they deserved a little bit more sympathy, empathy and a human conversation rather than an electronic communication.”

All three expressed disappointment at Canada Goose’s email strategy. One said they were “extremely disappointed that a Canadian icon would go down this route.”

One of the restructuring casualties is a longtime employee who says they have dedicated themselves to building up the storied brand. They say the email-first layoff approach “wasn’t aligned” with the company’s wholesome image.

“The Canada Goose culture has always prided itself on treating people fairly, with as much respect as possible.”

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Global News asked Canada Goose about these claims, but the company did not directly address them in its response.

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Email notices are legal, but ‘a bad idea’: lawyer

With the rise of remote work, email pink slips are becoming increasingly common, according to labour and employment lawyer Lior Samfiru, national co-managing partner of Toronto-based Samfiru Tumarkin LLP. Before the pandemic he says instances of it were rare; he had dealt with two such cases in two decades.

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Samfiru says layoff notifications via email aren’t illegal, but he advises against them because they leave too much to chance.

He says they’re “a bad idea” because employers have a duty to inform employees of their termination in a timely fashion but a digital-first email process means some communication can slip through the cracks, going unopened because it was missed, undelivered or ended up in a spam folder.

“The timing of when someone received that notice of termination may be very important,” Samfiru told Global News on Thursday.

Best layoff practices allow laid-off employees to ask questions, without putting the burden on them to take the next steps while they’re in shock over losing their job. When that doesn’t happen, frustrated employees often seek legal counsel.

In fact, he tells Global News that about a dozen former Canada Goose employees have reached out to his law firm with questions.

“When an employee terminates by email, it potentially exposes them to legal action because they’re essentially driving their employees to a lawyer,” Samfiru says.

Email layoffs ‘distressing’: HR expert

Andrew Monkhouse, adjunct professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, has expertise in both the legalities of being let go as well as HR practices. He tells Global News that traditionally, people were told in person that they were being let go but the pandemic has upended both the way that we work and the way that terminations are conducted, ushering in trends such as email layoffs.

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“It’s becoming more common because more people are working from home, including HR staff,” he said Thursday. Cost-cutting and the need to let many people know about terminations, while using the smallest number of resources possible, are factors too.

Monkhouse says the best practice remains letting an employee know they’re laid off through one-on-one direct communication, whether that’s in person or remotely and following up with written correspondence. Like Samfiru, he also advises against using email as a first method of contact.

“People expect that there’s a certain level of dignity in being let go,” he says. “Receiving an email letting you know that you’ve been terminated can be quite distressing.”

From an etiquette perspective, Samfiru warns that an email approach may further exacerbate an already stressful situation.

“That employee may leave employment with a bad taste in their mouth and bad feelings towards that employer,” he says.

Samfiru says the remote work trend is not an excuse to bypass workplace courtesy.

“We still have the ability, technology, means and resources to arrange for the employee to meet with the person letting them go, have their questions answered, to be treated respectfully.”

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