Lillian Vernon Fires Employees Four Days Before Christmas

Longtime catalog business Lillian Vernon, famous for its dinky personalized items—and under corporate ownership of one sort or another since 2003—decided to personalize the sensation of being terminated last Thursday, reports the Virginian-Pilot. Although seasonal workers have always been a big part of LV’s holiday workforce, this time around the axe fell on longterm employees who showed up to their normal, year-round jobs that morning. “Lillian Vernon officials declined to comment on the layoffs. Philip Read, a company spokesman, answered his wireless phone Friday and said he was no longer employed by Lillian Vernon as of Thursday.”

At a 2pm meeting on Thursday, the employees were brought their belongings, told they were being terminated due to rising shipping costs, and told if they wanted their two-weeks severance pay they’d have to sign a termination letter. And, naturally, they wouldn’t be paid for the upcoming holiday.

In 2003, [Lillian Vernon] sold [her company] to Direct Holdings Worldwide Inc., a holding company created by Ripplewood Holdings LLC and ZelnickMedia Corp., both of New York.

Sun Capital Partners Inc., a privately held investment company based in Boca Raton, Fla., bought Lillian Vernon from Direct Holdings in May 2006. In March this year, the company announced that it would lose 230 workers who handled customer calls and distribution for publisher Time-Life, which was consolidated with the operations of Reader’s Digest Association when Ripplewood bought that company.

“Lillian Vernon layoffs before holidays fuel woe, resentment” [PilotOnline]
(Thanks to Pat!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. JollyJumjuck says:

    All right! The Almighty Bottom Line triumphs over Goodwill once again!

  2. JollyJumjuck says:

    And one has to wonder how much of that money saved as a result of not having to pay workers’ holiday pay got translated into bonuses for the top brass?

  3. econobiker says:

    Tough road to hoe when anyone and his brother can set up a business website and then order up personalized crap from China.

  4. Parting says:

    2 weeks? Assh@les.

    If a company experiences difficulties, employees should be warned upfront. As bas as this would sound, I’m sure they would prefer to be prepared for the worst, and start looking for a new job in advance.
    Company just threw out employees like garbage. And blackmailing into signing termination letter to get paid, isn’t it illegal?

    Now, remaining employees will feel 0 loyalty towards this type of company.

    And customers will order elsewhere.

  5. bohemian says:

    Companies started using this no notice tactic a few years ago out of fear employees would damage or steal things and misbehave if they knew they were being let go.

    I think it is just adding insult to injury when they automatically assume everyone is going to do something bad before they leave. Having been through more than a few company downsizings, the ones where they told everyone ahead of time and the employers behaved in a civil manner went better and people still had a somewhat decent opinion of the company. The ones where they do this surprise firing create more bad blood.

  6. Buran says:

    @bohemian: They probably don’t care how you feel when they’ve outsourced your job to India.

  7. Buran says:

    @chouchou: You really think the customers know about this?

  8. homerjay says:

    They’re probably shutting down some of their catalog business to focus on their game show.

  9. markrubi says:

    We ordered something from LV weeks before Christmas and still have not seen it.

  10. ptkdude says:

    I thought if they didn’t give you 60 days notice that you were being laid off, they had to pay you for 60 days, or at least the combination of notice and pay would have to be 60 days (such as 30 days notice then 30 days severance).

  11. Chaosium says:

    @ptkdude: Such is unheard of in a “Right to Work” state.

  12. Curiosity says:

    However this is usually associated with high risk industries (like gambling), This is another reason why not only severance, but notice is important in employment contracts (assuming state law does not fill the gap)

  13. missjulied says:

    @ECONOBIKER: I think you mean “tough row to hoe”…

  14. mammalpants says:

    for reals, i want to make sweet love to the person in charge of choosing the images that go with your stories…unless it’s a dude. no i take it back. i’d still consider it.

  15. revmatty says:

    My wife routinely orders things from LV. Unfortunately I doubt this will convince her to find a different source for personalized stuff.

  16. MercuryPDX says:

    @chouchou: My previous, previous employer told everyone in my dept. in early March that on May first we would all be unemployed. If they hadn’t made “your continued good attendance and work effort” a condition of receiving a severance package, no one would have lifted a finger.

    @Buran: India? How about your local prison?

  17. forgottenpassword says:

    Jeeze! What a dirty underhanded thing to do!

    Well… at least they wont have to fear getting the axe a month or so after christmas. Like what a lot of other companies do when they are struggling & looking to lay off people near christmas time, but wait a month so they dont seem evil & uncaring.

  18. forgottenpassword says:

    Oh I just wanted to add that I hate “work at will” policies. They often state that it is a fair policy ….reasoning that an employer can let you go at any time & an employee can leave at any time , but what is NOT fair is that employers can withold/deny unused vacation/sickday/severence pay if you abruptly quit, however there is no likewise punishment if they decide to abruptly let you go.

    Fair my ASS!

  19. Major-General says:

    @ptkdude: ROTFL, um no.

    @Chaosium: Such is unheard of in California.

  20. rjhiggins says:

    @bohemian: Not “a few years ago.” They’ve been doing it for decades. You really don’t want pissed-off workers hanging around waiting to be laid off. It’s ugly, but it’s reality.

  21. firesign says:

    lillian vernon has always sold crap. it was a junky mailorder catalog business that was on the decline even when she still owned it. i’m amazed it’s lasted this long.

    @chouchou: people are, and have been for years. that’s why they’re getting rid of employees.

  22. trollkiller says:

    Fire people if you want, but DON’T touch their stuff. Walk them back to their desks and let them retrieve their belongings.

  23. Jabes says:

    @ptkdude: I think you’re referring to the WARN Act, but it doesn’t apply in every situation. I don’t know if it should apply in this particular case, but if it does, the fired employees can sue, individually or as a class, in federal District Court.

  24. mconfoy says:

    hey, they needed to enjoy a good laugh during the holidays thinking about all the ruined christmases for these people. when you are rich and can afford any material possession, ruining someone’s life is priceless as a present.