IMAGE: Adam Krueger
The recession has left Oregon among the 10 states with the worst unemployment rates—the latest numbers released Aug. 17 put Oregon’s July rate at 10.6 percent.
And with us already starting to feel like the Mississippi of the West Coast, the last thing we need is a national big-box store with some inherent advantages over local businesses screwing our workers in the midst of a stumbling economic recovery.
So we’re giving Home Depot a double-dip of Rogue dishonors for convincing an Oregon worker to give up her stable job, only to lay her off weeks later.
Andra Wagner, a 29-year-old who lives 25 miles south of Portland in Aurora, claims in a new federal lawsuit that a recruiter contacted her Nov. 23, 2009, about a $65,000-a-year job as human resources manager at Home Depot’s district headquarters in Tigard.
The Atlanta-based chain is the country’s No. 1 home-improvement store, with annual sales topping $90 billion during its peak in 2006. But business had dropped precipitously after the housing bubble burst, and Wagner says in her lawsuit that she wanted some assurances before she left her existing job.
During her first interview Dec. 2, Wagner “expressed her need to ensure the position was secure,” according to the suit filed July 30 in Portland. The suit says she was making $54,000 a year but doesn’t specify the job.
Shelley Erickson, Home Depot’s regional manager of associate relations, assured Wagner “the position was secure and that despite the economy, [Home Depot] was secure,” the lawsuit says.
At Wagner’s next interview Dec. 3, she again said she had a steady job and needed long-term employment, the suit says. Mike Leith, Home Depot’s district human resources manager, assured her the company wanted a long-term employee, according to the lawsuit.
At Wagner’s final interview Dec. 4, she was given no indication the job was temporary, according to the suit. She started work on Dec. 21. Less than six weeks later, on Jan. 26, Wagner received notice her position was being eliminated in a massive nationwide round of layoffs, the suit says.
Now Wagner is suing Home Depot for her lost earnings plus $200,000 in emotional distress.
Asked to respond to Wagner’s allegations, Stephen Holmes, a spokesman for Home Depot in Atlanta, sent WW a one-sentence email saying, “We don’t think there is any merit to her claims.”
We think big-box stores with billions in sales can afford to be honest with their employees, especially when times are this tough.