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Glossier

Former Glossier staff criticise ‘anti-Blackness & transphobia’ within brand


TextAlex Peters

Glossier has responded to a collective of former retail employees who have criticised the beauty brand for performative inclusivity and diversity

Glossier has responded to claims from a collective of former retail employees that describe an “insidious” culture within the brand’s stores of “anti-Blackness, transphobia, ableism, and retaliation.”

In an open letter on August 13, the anonymous collective named Outta The Gloss outlined the poor treatment experienced by retail employees, also known as ‘offline editors’, specifically those who are Black and brown. The letter criticises Glossier for its “optics-based” values of diversity and inclusivity which they claim don’t extend to the staff selling the products. “If this democratisation is only achieved by perniciously silencing Black and Brown editors and without treating marginalised staff equitably – have they democratised beauty at all, or is it more of the same?” the letter asks of Glossier’s community.

The letter goes on to describes how managers and HR failed to support staff who experienced racist incidents from customers and fellow staff members and how the approach of prizing customer satisfaction so completely at the expense of employees’s well being was “submissive and deeply humiliating, particularly for those of us who are BIPOC.”   

Other concerns include an “unjustifiable” gap in wages among people in the same positions, no opportunities for growth into corporate roles for longtime retail staff, and negative consequences for employees who voiced concerns. When Glossier expanded the range of its complexion products from five shades to 12, for example, many editors were worried about the new options. “Several editors who voiced concerns about the unflattering undertones for darker colors “earned” negative reviews that referenced those critiques specifically, and low raises if they received one,” the letter says.

The brand’s image of progressivism is hollow, they say. “We were the backbone of Glossier’s offline experience and demand the company’s virtue signaling extend to its hourly employees in a way it never has.”

The collective, who say they attempted to reconcile tensions internally to no avail, demanded imminent and long-term actions including accountability from Glossier’s CEO and retail management to “publicly acknowledge pain they’ve caused,” as well as structural changes like quarterly companywide anti-racism training, an onsite HR liaison that works solely with retail, and pay parity. “Glossier is in a unique position to work with former retail employees who truly want to see it be better,” they say. 

In response to the letter, founder and CEO Emily Weiss published a blog post on August 14 in which she says many of the experiences shared in the letter echo conversations the brand had in June after several members of the retail team emailed her with their concerns. Weiss says the concerns were quickly investigated and a plan to build a better work environment was put in place based on feedback and recommendations offered through the investigation. Weiss then shared the plan which included redesigning retail management structure and requiring all managers participate in equity training; dedicated HR staff onsite; clear paths for career advancement; and quarterly Town Halls with Glossier leadership to ensure better communication.

“We know there’s more work to be done, and we are continuing to look into the issues raised in our conversations,” Weiss ends the post, “but these actions are our starting point for creating the employee experience you all deserve.”

However, the Outta The Gloss collective found the response inadequate saying they were “frankly insulted by it.” In a statement they wrote that Weiss’s post and the company’s plan were performative, empty, and insufficient, and noted that while the Black grant initiative was shared across social channels, this response and news of retail layoffs were confined to the company blog. 

On August 17, Glossier shared a public statement on its Instagram account addressing the June investigation and the new allegations from Outta The Gloss. “This post, to start, is an apology and a public acknowledgement of the pain and discomfort these former colleagues experienced,” the statement writes, acknowledging the brand failed to create an inclusive and safe environment for retail employees. The statement goes on to describe Glossier’s blueprint for its plan of action ranging from open dialogue to company-wide anti-racism training, more robust hiring processes for managers and onsite human resources. “To @outtathegloss and all our former colleagues who've shared their stories: thank you for holding us accountable,” the caption reads.

Shortly following Glossier’s statement, Outta The Gloss posted their own response thanking the company for its apology and acknowledgement but noting that, as of 4pm, retail employees have yet to receive an email from Glossier outlining their action plan. “Their work is not yet done – this is only their first step. Expect a full response from us soon.”

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