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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke April 7, 2020

Some Goodwill employees have been laid off and furloughed because of the pandemic

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  • More than 96% of Goodwill stores have closed because of state regulations in response to the spread of COVID-19
  • Goodwill employees have been laid off and furloughed across the country. 
  • In Northern and Central Arizona, a majority of employees at Goodwill stores were laid off. 
  • Other Goodwill operations are ongoing. 

Scores of Americans have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has pushed the jobless rate to its highest point since the Great Depression. As of April 2, nearly 10 million people had filed for unemployment insurance. 

But getting fired for cause — as opposed to being laid off or furloughed — can jeopardize workers’ ability to collect benefits. And a recent Facebook post suggests that Goodwill exploited shelter-in-place orders to fire its employees instead of merely laying them off.

"I just want to share what Goodwill Industries just did to all their employees," begins the April 2 Facebook post. "They use this pandemic to fire all their employees instead of laying them off. They did say they would hire them all back as a brand new employee with no built up benefits or vacation time. I will not be donating or shopping there again. They definitely do not care about our community only how much money they can make off of us." 

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

Lauren Lawson-Zilai, a spokesperson for Goodwill Industries International, told PolitiFact that each of the 157 Goodwill organizations in the United States and Canada is a locally operated nonprofit with its own president and CEO. More than 96% of Goodwill’s thrift stores have closed because of state regulations in response to the spread of COVID-19, she said. 

But she said the Facebook post doesn’t appear to be accurate. 

"Some Goodwill organizations have had to furlough their employees," she said. "These employees are receiving benefits" that vary state by state. 

Other Goodwill operations are ongoing in some capacity, she said. For example, 90% of Goodwills are operating business services. Local Goodwill organizations contract with commercial and government organizations, among others, "to provide a wide range of business services, including janitorial and grounds maintenance, flexible staffing, food service ... and laundry services."

Lawson-Zilai said many are also providing job preparation skills and they’re offering online learning through Google Classroom. One Goodwill partnered with a local dry cleaner to dry clean previously donated clothes that physicians can use as smocks. 

At Goodwill stores in parts of Arizona, however, a majority of employees lost their jobs. 

In a statement, Goodwill of Northern and Central Arizona said that mandatory state stay-at-home orders led Goodwill there to "make the very difficult decision to close our stores in order to protect the health and safety of our employees and shoppers."

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The statement says ensuring the organization’s financial stability "included the very difficult decision to part ways with the majority of employees at each store." 

"We are providing a severance package, which includes two-weeks pay, to help these team members in their transition to new employment," it says. "We truly hope when this situation passes, we will be able to rehire the majority of these employees."

Lawson-Zilai said those employees were laid off because of economic constraints, not fired. 

The Facebook post, which was shared more than 19,000 times, drew hundreds of comments, too. Among them were comments from people who claimed to be Goodwill employees. 

"As an employee of a local Goodwill retail location, I can tell you this isn’t true at my location," one commenter wrote. "I’m a full-time, hourly shift manager of five years who was given the choice of working or being furloughed; I chose furlough and I will keep my health insurance, my benefits and will retain my years of employment when I return, all while being eligible for full unemployment insurance benefits." 

"As a furloughed employee I can confirm that this is a completely untrue statement," another commenter said. "Health insurance is being paid in full by the company for full time employees while furloughed and accrued (personal time off) isn’t going anywhere." 

Yet another commenter wrote that she was "‘let go’ because of the virus."

"All I was told was that I’m eligible for rehire when they allow managers to hire again," she said. 

Our ruling

The Facebook post says that Goodwill fired all employees instead of laying them off. 

That’s not accurate. Across the country, employees at local Goodwill organizations have been laid off or furloughed, but some operations have not shuttered, according to a Goodwill spokesperson. 

In parts of Arizona, a majority of employees were laid off. But they weren’t fired as the Facebook post claims.

We rate this post False.


Our Sources

Facebook post, April 2, 2020

The New York Times, The unemployment rate is probably around 13 percent, April 3, 2020

Tampa Bay Times, Florida’s unemployment benefits: We answer your questions, April 1, 2020

Texas Workforce Commission, Unemployment insurance law - qualification questions, visited April 6, 2020, Can I collect unemployment if I’m furloughed from coronavirus?, April 4, 2020

Los Angeles Times, Op-ed: Millions need unemployment benefits. Unfortunately, the delivery system is broken, April 6, 2020

Email interview with Lauren Lawson-Zilai, senior director of public relations, Goodwill Industries International, April 6, 2020


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