Tag Archives: retailer

Complaints drive Lands’ End to issue apology for featuring feminist Gloria Steinem in catalog

Wisconsin-based retailer Lands’ End is apologizing to customers for featuring an interview with feminist and political activist Gloria Steinem in its spring catalog and has removed references to her from its website.

The company removed a feature on Steinem from its website after customers complained about her support for abortion rights, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The retailer issued an apology on Feb. 24 after customers complained, including by flooding the company’s Facebook page with hundreds of comments and vows to stop shopping the stores.

“We understand that some of our customers were offended by the inclusion of an interview in a recent catalog with Gloria Steinem on her quest for women’s equality,” the company said in a statement. “We thought it was a good idea and we heard from our customers that, for different reasons, it wasn’t.”

Steinem was interviewed by company CEO Federica Marchionni for the Lands’ End “Legend Series,” which features people “who have made a difference in both their respective industries and the world at large,” according to the company.

“Our goal was to feature individuals with different interests and backgrounds that have made a difference for our new Legends Series, not to take any political or religious stance,” the statement said. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the interview mentioned her stance on abortion rights.

Steinem’s representative at Random House said Steinem was currently in the United Kingdom on book tour and unavailable for comment.

Meth lab discovered in Wal-mart bathroom

A restroom at a Wal-Mart in eastern Indiana has been closed indefinitely after an employee discovered a working meth lab inside.

State police say a Wal-Mart employee alerted police after seeing a man he described as suspicious enter the restroom late one night with a backpack and leave without it. The Star Press reports that members of a state police meth suppression team removed the dangerous chemicals.

Delaware County Health Department inspectors closed the restroom and a nearby women’s restroom until they could be “decontaminated” by a professional cleaning company.

State police say people who make methamphetamine are leaving “the deadly explosive chemicals in public places to return later to get the finished product,” rather than risk explosions and contamination at their own homes.

Wal-Mart criticizes so-called ‘conscience protection’ measure

Wal-Mart this week criticized a measure in the retail giant’s home state that opponents say sanctions discrimination against gays and lesbians, while Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson also expressed concerns about the legislation.

The proposal to prohibit state and local governments from imposing a “substantial burden” on someone’s religious beliefs faced new resistance a day after Arkansas became the second state to bar cities and counties from expanding anti-discrimination protections to gays and lesbians.

Bentonville-based Wal-Mart’s criticism of the pending legislation was nearly identical to concerns it raised about the new law regarding local ordinances. The world’s largest retailer includes sexual orientation and gender identity in its non-discrimination policy.

“While HB1228 will not change how we treat our associates and operate our business, we feel this legislation is also counter to our core basic belief of respect for the individual and sends the wrong message about Arkansas, as well as the diverse environment which exists in the state,” Wal-Mart spokesman Lorenzo Lopez said in a statement.

Hutchinson, a Republican, said he had reservations the House-backed measure, but stopped short of saying whether he opposed it. Hutchinson said he has questions about how the measure would be applied.

“I can see a great deal of litigation coming out of this, and so we want to have a better understanding of it,” Hutchinson told reporters.

The measure would ban any local or state laws or regulations that substantially burden religious beliefs unless a “compelling governmental interest” is proven. The bill, if enacted, would strengthen any case of a person suing the government if that person could prove their religious beliefs were infringed upon.

The legislation is patterned after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states have similar laws and 10 states are currently considering them. Hutchinson said he understands the desire to protect religious freedom, but said he needed more information on the bill’s impact.

“Part of it is, if as a lawyer I can’t get a good grasp of it one time through, then it makes me wonder how this is going to be interpreted by the courts,” Hutchinson said. “It’s just the unintended consequences of legislation is what you’ve got to look at very carefully.”

Hutchinson’s comments came a day after he allowed legislation to become law that bans local governments from expanding anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation or gender identity. Opponents of the measure had urged Hutchinson to veto it after he said he was concerned about it infringing on local control.

Both bills were pushed in response to a Fayetteville ordinance that barred discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The city’s voters repealed the ordinance in December.

Gay rights groups have shifted their attention to the “conscience protection” measure, calling it another thinly veiled attempt to endorse bias against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“HB1228 is equally disturbing and allows any person to claim religious belief as their grounds for discriminatory acts,” Kendra Johnson, state director for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement issued this week. “Simply put, state senators should erase it from the legislative agenda.”

The measure was expected to go before a Senate panel on Wednesday. Its sponsor said he planned to talk with Hutchinson about his concerns.

“I know the bill real well and I know Asa, where he stands on the issue,” Republican Rep. Bob Ballinger of Hindsville said. “I think in the end he’ll side with protecting people’s religious freedom.”

Feds: Wal-Mart discriminated against lesbian employee seeking health coverage for sick wife

A federal agency says Wal-Mart discriminated against a lesbian employee who sought health coverage for her ailing wife and has ordered “a just resolution” for violating her civil rights.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ordered the retail giant to work with Jacqueline Cote of New Bedford, Massachusetts, who hopes the determination will help her pay off $100,000 in medical bills.

In a Jan. 29 EEOC ruling, obtained this week by The Associated Press, the agency said Cote “was treated differently and denied benefits because of her sex.”

Cote tried to enroll her partner in Wal-Mart’s health plan repeatedly starting in 2008, but coverage was denied and the company didn’t provide it until 2014. In 2012, Cote’s wife, Diana Smithson, was diagnosed with cancer.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said it expanded its policy in 2014 to include same-sex couples.

“While we disagree with the finding of reasonable cause, we have notified the EEOC of our willingness to meet with them and Miss Cote to discuss resolving the matter,” spokesman Randy Hargrove said.

Cote, 52, and Smithson, 63, met while working at a Wal-Mart store in Augusta, Maine, in 1999. They moved to Massachusetts where they continued to work for Wal-Mart and where they married in May 2004, just days after the state legalized same-sex marriage.

Smithson quit in 2007 to take care of Cote’s elderly mother. That prompted Cote to try to add Smithson to her health plan the following year.

Cote said she tried to enroll online, but the system wouldn’t let her proceed when she indicated her spouse was a woman. When she sought an official explanation, she was told that same-sex spouses were not covered.

Each year thereafter, she tried and failed to enroll Smithson — including in 2012, when Smithson was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

“I was shocked,” said Cote, who was working in the company’s East Falmouth, Massachusetts, store at the time. She said her colleagues in every Wal-Mart store she has worked in have been supportive of the couple.

In 2013, Cote reached out to Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, which filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC the following year.

“If she was a woman married to a man, she would have been given spousal health benefits,” said Allison Wright, an attorney with GLAD who is representing Cote.

Wright said the next step will be attempting settlement negotiations with Wal-Mart.

“We’re estimating up to about $100,000 worth of medical expenses and other damages because of Wal-Mart’s discriminatory denial,” she said.

Cote said the couple paid out of pocket for Smithson’s medical expenses in 2012, when Smithson lost her private health coverage, and up until Jan. 1, 2014, when Wal-Mart’s expanded policy took effect.

The couple has “an inordinate amount of bills,” said Cote, who now works in Wal-Mart’s Swansea, Massachusetts, store as an office associate. Smithson was in remission for 18 months but resumed chemotherapy treatments last month.

“I’m not only doing this for me,” Cote said. “I’m doing this for other gay and lesbian couples that have been discriminated against as well.”

Rights groups blast Urban Outfitters for ‘Holocaust Garb’ tapestry

Human Rights Campaign and the Anti-Defamation League on Feb. 10 blasted Urban Outfitters for the retailer’s sale of a striped tapestry featuring a single pink triangle, an unmistakable echo of uniforms Nazis issued to suspected gay male concentration camp prisoners.

“Urban Outfitters has seized yet again on imagery of the Holocaust, one of the most abhorrent chapters in world history, in an appalling effort to attract attention,” Fred Sainz, vice president for communications at HRC, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, stated in a news release. “This is an affront to LGBT people, Holocaust survivors, their families, and anyone with an ounce of humanity.” 

The tapestry is made of a gray-and-white striped fabric, imprinted with a bright pink triangle that mirrors badges Nazis forced suspected gay prisoners to wear. LGBT rights advocates appropriated the pink triangle nearly four decades ago, transforming it into an iconic image of the movement.

“Whether intentional or not, this gray and white stripped pattern and pink triangle combination is deeply offensive and should not be mainstreamed into popular culture,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director and a Holocaust survivor. “We urge Urban Outfitters to immediately remove the product eerily reminiscent of clothing forced upon the victims of the Holocaust from their stores and online.”

In a letter to Urban Outfitters president and CEO Richard A. Hayne, ADL expressed its concern over the insensitive design and the company’s periodic use of products within the realm of Holocaust imagery.

HRC, in its statement, noted that this is not the first time Urban Outfitters has been called out. In 2012, the retailer marketed a T-shirt featuring a yellow star that echoed the identifying Star of David patch Jewish people were forced to wear under the Nazi regime. That same year, the Navajo Nation sued the retailer over its use of the “Navajo” name in a line of clothing and accessories, including items the tribe found distasteful and racially demeaning.

In a letter to Urban Outfitters President and CEO Richard A. Hayne, ADL expressed its concern over the insensitive design and the company’s periodic use of products within the realm of Holocaust imagery.

Also, last year Urban Outfitters sold a “Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt’ that featured fake blood stains. In 1970, four unarmed students were killed, and nine other people wounded, when members of the National Guard opened fire on Vietnam War protesters.

The company ultimately apologized for  “any offense” the Kent State shirt may have caused.

“This retailer has repeatedly embraced the abhorrent, the racist, the bigoted,” Sainz stated. “We urge them to reject this strategy, to apologize and keep this kind of offensive merchandise off their shelves.”

Workers ready Black Friday strikes against Walmart

Our Walmart is preparing to stage strikes and other actions on Black Friday, which is on Nov. 28, the day after Thanksgiving.

Hundreds of other groups have pledged to support the strikes at 1,600 of the retailer’s locations in the United States. The actions are protests against the company’s retaliation against workers who have led campaigns to better their employment conditions.

The strikers will be demanding the right to organize in the workplace, living wages and steady employment and hours.

Walmart gobbles up an estimated $16 billion in profits each year and the Walton family’s wealth is record-setting. Yet there are many Walmart employees — associates — who can’t pay their monthly expenses for housing and food and who have lacked adequate health care insurance.

Walmart also will face protests from the environmental community on Black Friday. The retailer consumes about .5 percent of all coal electricity in the United States, despite positioning itself as a green-friendly company.

Target asks customers to leave firearms at home

The retail giant Target on July 2 asked customers to not bring firearms to its stores.

The announcement made on a company blog was from interim CEO John Mulligan, who has been the focus of a petition drive coordinated by a grassroots group of moms opposed to people carrying guns in a store where adult shoppers often are accompanied by children.

Mulligan’s statement said:

“The leadership team has been weighing a complex issue, and I want to be sure everyone understands our thoughts and ultimate decision.

“As you’ve likely seen in the media, there has been a debate about whether guests in communities that permit ‘open carry’ should be allowed to bring firearms into Target stores. Our approach has always been to follow local laws, and of course, we will continue to do so. But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target — even in communities where it is permitted by law.

“We’ve listened carefully to the nuances of this debate and respect the protected rights of everyone involved. In return, we are asking for help in fulfilling our goal to create an atmosphere that is safe and inviting for our guests and team members.

“This is a complicated issue, but it boils down to a simple belief: Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create.”

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which collected nearly 400,000 signatures on a petition, applauded Target’s decision. The group said it “introduced the campaign after gun extremists carrying loaded assault rifles frequently gathered in Target stores to demonstrate in support of open carry laws.”

Editor’s note: This story is developing.


High note: Colorado symphony to play ‘cannabis-friendly’ concerts

The Colorado Symphony Orchestra said Tuesday it will play a series of “cannabis-friendly” fundraising concerts sponsored by the state’s burgeoning pot industry.

The state’s only full-time professional orchestra hopes the unusual shows dubbed “Classically Cannabis: The High Note Series” will boost its audience as it struggles with dwindling attendance and shrinking budgets.

“The cannabis industry obviously opens the door even further to a younger, more diverse audience,” symphony CEO Jerome Kern told The Associated Press.

In return for sponsorship, marijuana-related companies get “the legitimacy of being associated with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.” he said.

The event, however, is strictly BYOC – bring your own cannabis, according to an events listing on the symphony website that says pot will not be sold.

Richard Yost of Ideal 420 Soil, a New Hampshire company that sells soil and other cultivation products to marijuana growers, sees sponsoring the concerts as a chance to link his company to one of the best orchestras in the nation and to make the point that pot consumers can be clean-cut and sophisticated.

“You can be intelligent and savvy and enjoy cannabis as well,” said Yost, adding that he plays Mozart while he works on business plans.

Another sponsor, Jan Cole, said her Boulder-based pot retailer The Farm has helped fund arts events in her hometown and a concert by Ziggy Marley in Denver. She said she hoped for a long-term association with the symphony, because its audience was “our crowd … people who like art and music and alternative products.”

Judith Inman, a member of a volunteer guild that has organized balls and other more traditional classical music fundraisers in Denver, has reservations about the marijuana mash-up.

“I know that the symphony needs new sponsors, and they are trying to go after a younger group,” she said. “I just don’t think this is the way to go about it.”

Retail marijuana sales have been legal in Colorado since January but there have been concerns about the safety and packaging of edible marijuana products.

Still, poll results released Monday showed 52 percent of Coloradans think marijuana legalization has been beneficial, and 67 percent disagree with the sentiment that it has eroded the moral fiber of people in the state.

Kern said he has heard complaints from at least one musician and from symphony supporters about the upcoming concerts.

The first three shows will feature small ensembles of symphony players at a downtown Denver gallery. The series culminates with a concert at Red Rocks, an amphitheater outside Denver where the symphony and pop and rock groups play.

Jane West, whose Edible Events Co. is organizing the series, said concertgoers will be able to smoke pot in a separate area at the gallery. Guests must be at least 21 and purchase $75 tickets in advance.

“We try to create upscale events where people can come and enjoy some cannabis just like they would a glass of wine,” West said.

For the final show at Red Rocks, which is owned by the city and county of Denver, organizers intend to follow rules dictated by police, West said.

Smoking pot at the famed venue is officially banned, though that was flouted long before recreational marijuana became legal.

Another series of symphony events restricted to the 21-and-up crowd is “Beethoven and Brews,” which brings musicians to a trendy downtown hotel bar to play as local breweries offer tastings.

Wal-Mart charged with labor violations

Federal officials filed a formal complaint this week charging that Wal-Mart violated the rights of workers who took part in protests and strikes against the company.

The National Labor Relations Board says Wal-Mart illegally fired, disciplined or threatened more than 60 employees in 14 states for participating in legally protected activities to complain about wages and working conditions at the nation’s largest retailer.

The labor board’s general counsel first laid out similar charges in November, but held off on filing a complaint while trying to work out a settlement with Wal-Mart. Those discussions were not successful, government officials said in a statement.

The company has insisted its actions were legal and justified.

“We now we have the opportunity to present the facts of these cases in front of a judge,” said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan. “No reasonable person thinks it’s ok for people to come and go from their scheduled shift without being held accountable.”

The protests in 2012 were organized by the union-backed group OUR Walmart, which has spent years pressing Wal-Mart to increase wages and benefits and make it easier for workers to organize a union. The group claims the majority of Wal-Mart associates are paid less than $25,000 a year.

Wal-Mart has until Jan. 28 to respond to the complaint. The case will then go before an administrative law judge. If Wal-Mart is found liable, it could be required to award workers back pay, reinstatement and reverse any disciplinary action. But the company could still try to work out a settlement as the case goes forward.

“We’ve never seen a complaint against Walmart of this size or scope, and we’re glad the NLRB is taking action,” said Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs With Justice, one of the groups critical of Wal-Mart. “Walmart’s attacks on its own employees and cannot go unchecked.”

The complaint alleges that In November 2012, Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar went on CBS News and said there would be “consequences” for workers who engaged in strikes and protests ahead of Black Friday, the big shopping day after Thanksgiving. Similar comments were made to employees at Wal-Mart stores in California and Texas, the complaint said.

Thousands of people – including dozens of Wal-Mart workers – went forward with protests at Wal-Mart stores around the country. The company ultimately fired 19 workers who took part, despite the fact that their actions were protected by the National Labor Relations Act, the complaint said.

The NLRB complaint further alleges that Wal-Mart unlawfully threatened, disciplined or terminated workers for engaging in protected strikes and protests in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington.

Wal-Mart also illegally threatened, disciplined or fired employees at stores in California, Florida, Missouri and Texas in response to other worker activity that is protected by labor laws, the complaint alleged.

Humane Society: Kohl’s ‘faux fur’ handbags trimmed with real rabbit fur

Independent laboratory testing recently confirmed that accessories sold on Kohls.com as “faux fur” were actually made with real rabbit fur, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

The nonprofit, on Dec. 2, issued a consumer warning about the products, which apparently were no longer available on the retailer’s website on Dec. 3.

Investigators with the Humane Society found that several styles of  Nicole Lee Fabiola brand handbags, which were advertised as having “faux-fur” trimming on Kohls.com in October and November, were trimmed with animal fur. Lab testing determined the fur to be from a rabbit.

HSUS says that selling animal fur as “faux fur” on a handbag is a violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act. That law prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” in commerce and carries a civil penalty of up to $16,000 per violation.

Pierre Grzybowski, of the Fur-Free Campaign of The HSUS, said in a statement to the press, “Consumers should be aware that animal fur is still being sold as ‘faux’ by major retailers — in this case Kohl’s. We’re calling on Kohl’s to adopt a fur-free policy and more robust quality control program, and urging consumers to learn how to tell animal fur from fake fur so they can shop with confidence.”

According to the HSUS, more than 75 million animals, including rabbits, raccoon dogs, mink, bobcats, foxes and even domestic dogs and cats, are killed annually to make unnecessary fur products. 

In August, the FTC issued took enforcement action against Neiman Marcus, Revolveclothing.com and Drjays.com in response to 2011 petition from the HSUS alleging the selling of animal fur as “faux.”

Also, in March, an investigation by the Humane Society found that the Century 21 store in New York was selling a Marc Jacobs jacket as having “faux fur” but it had raccoon dog fur.

The Truth in Fur Labeling Act, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama, amended the Fur Products Labeling Act, closing a loophole that had allowed many fur-trimmed garments to go unlabeled if the value of the animal fur material was $150 or less.