This is a time of racial reckoning for many — an era in which the proliferation of current events has inspired people from all walks of life to stand up and speak out in support of change in the inequalities of our current systems.
As a result, many prominent companies have been exposed as frauds for fostering workplace environments imbued with racist and sexist behavior that proves their supposed ally-ship was nothing more than a facade.
The latest perpetrator is Glossier, whose employees (also known as “editors”) have accused the company of exhibiting racist management and enabling a work culture that prioritized customer satisfaction to the detriment of employee well-being.
A group of anonymous staff members outed the company on Instagram in several posts under the account “Outta The Gloss,” in which they recounted various cases of racism encountered by employees of color at Glossier’s flagship store.
According to the editors, who are mostly LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC, they were touched by customers and derided as “illegals” by a woman patron who was continuously permitted to shop at the store. When the incidents were brought to HR, the response was for them to “take a few minutes” with no further action taken.
In other instances, editors of color tried to suggest changes to the complexion products that would be more appropriate for darker skin tones and were punished with negative performance reviews for their trouble. They also faced unequal pay and barriers to moving up to higher positions.
Additionally, they were forced to toil in intolerable conditions. They worked in the summer without air conditioning and shared a workspace with ongoing construction while the company violated occupation limits in its New York City penthouse location.
Because of these indecencies, Outta The Gloss presented a list of demands to Glossier that included “public accountability among executives, anti-racism training for management, a new performance review system, and better in-store security.”
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While our stores are closed until 2021 due to the pandemic, we see this time as an opportunity, an obligation, to build a more equitable, inclusive, growth-oriented, and anti-racist employee experience for our retail team. To @outtathegloss and all our former colleagues who’ve shared their stories: thank you for holding us accountable.
Glossier CEO and founder Emily Weiss countered with her own blog post, claiming that the employees had already brought the issues to her attention in mid-June. Weiss added that she had introduced her own plan in July that would install HR representatives at stores, add manager bias training, and revamp performance reviews.
Outta the Gloss was not impressed with the post, calling it “performative and insufficient when it was received in July and its emptiness prompted the letter we published.”
Of course, none of the plans made it to fruition as almost a month later, Glossier would proceed to lay off all of their retail employees.
It’s important to note that the description of the company’s unpleasant work environment stands in stark contrast to the company’s branding as a feminist startup. They’ve made it a point to promote body positivity and embrace girl power catchphrases. Their tag line even offers “beauty products inspired by real life.” How can a company that claims to celebrate natural beauty appear to reject that notion when confronted with their BIPOC staff? Easily, it seems, as they clearly value making money more than providing a safe, comfortable working environment for your employees.
Those staff members were treated discriminatorily and Outta The Gloss was in the right for stepping forward with their story. LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC people should not have to endure that kind of management in the workplace. They have a right to air out their grievances after exhausting all other avenues. If the company doesn’t want to listen privately, then the only measure left is to discuss things publicly.
Glossier is not the first company to have its racism aired out in such a manner and it won’t be the last. Groups like Outta the Gloss will only motivate others to come forward with their own stories of prejudice and discrimination in the workplace. The more this occurs, the more real change can happen. Glossier stores closed down before Weiss was forced to put words to action, but rest assured there are similar companies out there holding their breath, waiting for the hammer to fall.
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Ashley is a Blerd and pop culture glutton with a penchant for video games. She is a freelance writer, whose articles have appeared in Black Girl Nerds and Screen Rant. Life is happiest for her when she’s able to indulge in her childhood hobby, by putting pen to page.