To outsiders, the headquarters of Urban Outfitters in Philadelphia might seem like a great place to work. Employees at many of the Urban buildings down at the Navy Yard are allowed to bring their dogs to the office. Urban will give you a bike light and helmet if you pedal to work. And having an on-campus gym and top-notch cafeteria doesn’t hurt one bit. But women who work there say it’s not so great thanks to a new policy that they believe discriminates against working mothers.
The emails, which Philadelphia magazine has reviewed, started going around last week: Management had decided to do away with a flex-time benefit that allowed employees to work an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule instead of the standard office hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The flex-time had been a big plus for employees with young children, as it made it possible for them to get their kids from day care before the common 6 p.m. closing time. The emails didn’t explain why the decision was made, saying only that employees had 30 days to make other arrangements.
“People are really angry,” says one of six women with children at Urban Outfitters that Philly Mag spoke with about the decision, all under the condition of anonymity. “It changes everything. Most of the people that use flex-time have no choice. There’s no alternative. And now we are very scared, and some of us are already looking for new jobs.”
Another woman explained that due to her child-care situation and commute, she was already pressed for quality family time. Under the flex schedule, once she got her child home from day care, there was just over an hour before bedtime.
“This means I’ll get literally 20 minutes a day with my baby,” she says in reaction to the new policy. “And it’s not just me. This is life-changing for a lot of us.”
Plus, she says, it’s not as if she puts her feet up on the couch and zones out to Netflix once the baby is in bed.
“Like most of the young moms here, my work day doesn’t end when I leave the office,” she insists. “We all take our work home with us and finish it at night. Our work is not late.”
One woman says that when she complained to her manager about it, she was told that Urban Outfitters pays good money to its employees and that she should be happy. She claims that the manager told her that she could easily afford extra child care to make up for the hour difference.
“I’m not working this hard so that I can pay people to take care of my kids 24-7,” she tells us.
We asked the women if they had filed a formal complaint with Urban Outfitters’ human resources department about the issue, and we were a little bewildered by their response: All of them claim that Urban Outfitters does not have a human resources department.
“We really don’t,” says one. “If you look in our directory, there is no such department. For hiring, we do have a department called talent acquisition, but once you’re in, you deal with your manager and no one else. When we have a problem, we go to our manager, and that’s the end of it. There is no one else to go to. If we try going over their heads, we’ll just be told to talk to our manager, and then we’ll probably be fired.”
It’s not the first time that Urban Outfitters has come under fire for its employment policies. In 2015, Urban tried to get people to work for free at its fulfillment center in Gap, Pennsylvania, calling it a “team building activity.”
The company also sparked outrage with its since-discontinued on-call policies, which required employees in its stores to come in at the last minute.
A spokesperson for Urban Outfitters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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