Hy-Vee, the West Des Moines-based grocer, confirmed to Axios and KCCI on Wednesday that it was laying off employees, but the company didn’t specify which departments or how many people lost their jobs.
The grocery store chain told Axios the people they laid off were hired for “COVID-related projects” that are no longer needed while KCCI shared this statement from Hy-Vee spokesperson Tina Pothoff:
“Like every company, our employee needs ebb and flow to match our business,” Pothoff said. “In the midst of COVID-19, we had to significantly increase our projects across our business. With those projects launched, we have to make sure we remain focused on our stores and providing the best value and quality to our customers.”
Last week, a tipster told Starting Line Hy-Vee was doing “massive corporate layoffs.” The tipster alleged it impacted half the customer care team, the private label team, and up to 100 people in the IT departments. Other reporting and discussions on an Iowa Reddit thread backs up the idea that the IT center based in Grimes was particularly hard hit, though the number of employees let go isn’t known.
Starting Line contacted another Hy-Vee spokesperson last week, who said she would look into it but she did not follow up. Starting Line also contacted the city of West Des Moines on March 16 to see if it received a Federal Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act from Hy-Vee. This request was also unmet.
Iowa companies with 25 or more employees are required to provide a notice to Iowa Workforce Development, but the state’s WARN notice website does not show any recent Hy-Vee layoffs.
Several former Hy-Vee employees took to LinkedIn to share their dismay over the situation.
Caitlin Barnes, a former senior graphic designer, posted that “half her team was laid off.”
“Completely unexpected, and abrupt,” she wrote. “ It was truly one of the most bizarre experiences I’ve gone through in my creative career.”
Melanie McKee, another ex-employee and a senior software engineer, wrote that she walked off the job out of solidarity with her co-workers who lost their jobs. She said it was not an easy decision to make because she’s “fiercely loyal” to her fellow engineers, but in her heart, she knew it was the right decision.
“That fierce loyalty also extends to my coworkers that were abruptly let go on Monday,” McKee wrote. “They were given no notice, no chance to say goodbye, and ushered out like cattle. People that brought their best, every day, and poured their time and energy into this company. They deserved the bare minimum of being treated with dignity and respect.
“Hy-Vee is a business. I understand that layoffs are sometimes unavoidable,” she continued. “But the way you treat people matters. It says everything about who you are as a company. And unfortunately, Hy-Vee has shown us exactly who they are: at their very core lies something broken and rotten.”
Also on Wednesday, both chambers of the Iowa Legislature voted to further restrict unemployment insurance in Iowa, including reducing the length of benefits from 26 weeks to 16 weeks. Reducing Iowans ability to collect unemployment has been a legislative priority for Gov. Kim Reynolds, who said during her 2022 Condition of the State the unemployment system went from being a “safety net” to a “hammock.”
If you have additional information on Hy-Vee’s layoffs, feel free to reach out to us at Ty@IowaStartingLine.com.
by Ty Rushing
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