Glossier, a billion-dollar beauty startup, built up its brand in part by touting a mission to “democratize” the industry and “give everyone a voice about the beauty products we use.”
Now, the company and its CEO Emily Weiss are apologizing to former retail workers after Glossier was hit by allegations of racism and mistreatment that she says make clear it has “failed to ensure that all voices are heard, and protected, within our internal community.”
In Instagram posts Monday, Weiss and Glossier acknowledged that the startup had “failed to create” an “inclusive, safe environment” and laid out a plan of action in response to worker complaints. The posts come after public allegations of racism inside its stores from a group of anonymous, self-described former staffers.
“We’re so sorry that we didn’t create a workplace in which our retail employees felt supported in the most critical ways,” the company wrote in the post. In her Instagram post, Weiss said, “I am sorry we let you down.”
The worker allegations were posted online anonymously last week by a group using the name “Outta the Gloss” — a play on Glossier’s “Into the Gloss” blog, out of which the beauty brand grew. In their post, which was shared on Medium, the workers alleged there was “an ongoing insidious culture of anti-Blackness, transphobia, ableism, and retaliation.”
The retail workers, whose job titles are “editors,” detailed specific incidents for which they allege there was “little recourse — not even reassurance of our safety.” They allege a customer grabbed a Black worker by the face to “show off” her complexion to someone and also claimed the company repeatedly permitted a woman to enter the store and disparage Latinx workers as “illegals.”
“If this democratization is only achieved by perniciously silencing Black and Brown editors and without treating marginalized staff equitably — have they democratized beauty at all, or is it more of the same?” the collective wrote in the Medium post.
As the nation more broadly confronts racism, inequality and social justice, Glossier is just the latest company to come under scrutiny for outwardly professing a commitment to inclusivity while allegedly fostering an environment that runs counter to its rhetoric.
For Glossier and its workers, the allegations come at a difficult time. Last week, days before the public allegations, Glossier announced it would be laying off its retail staffers who had been furloughed since June as it plans to keep its three retail stores — in New York, Los Angeles and London — closed for at least the rest of this year, and possibly for the remainder of the pandemic. (The collective says the Medium post was initiated and drafted prior to the recent layoffs.)
The collective outlined a list of demands, beginning with calling for an open Zoom call where BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color) are given a platform to address the issues laid out in the open letter and are compensated for participating and offering feedback, as well as specifics such as quarterly anti-racist training, retail management changes, pay parity and ongoing transparency.
In the company statement Monday, Glossier said it would email former retail workers to “invite dialogue with anyone who has additional feedback and ideas to help move us towards our shared vision,” noting that anyone who participates will be compensated for their time.
Many of the planned changes — which includes some measures mentioned by the collective, such as de-escalation training for retail workers, processes for them to provide feedback about management without fear of repercussions, and annual compensation reviews to ensure pay parity — will come into play once the company is able to restart its retail operations. “We see this time as a unique opportunity to get it right,” the statement read.
Glossier and the collective did not have any additional comments beyond what each has said publicly.
“We thank Glossier for their apology and acknowledgment of our demands,” Outta the Gloss said in a post on its Instagram account. “However, their work is not yet done — this is only their first step. Expect a full response from us soon.”
In a blog post on Friday, Weiss offered her initial response to the public allegations but stopped short of issuing an apology. That response received pushback from the collective which said it was “frankly insulted by it.”
In her earlier response, Weiss wrote that “many of these stories echo conversations we had earlier this summer.” She noted that starting June 15, several retail members emailed concerns around the work environment in Glossier stores. That outreach came as Glossier, along with a number of other corporations, announced it stood in solidarity against systemic racism in the wake of the killing of George Floyd that spurred a broader reckoning around racism. Glossier pledged $1 million to be put toward supporting organizations fighting racial injustice and Black-owned beauty businesses.
Weiss said then that the company had “moved quickly to investigate with the added guidance of outside counsel to ensure a thorough and fair process” and that she had conversations with “more than a dozen retail team members over the course of two weeks.” In an email shared with workers on July 10, Glossier outlined initial actions it planned to take. The collective said it believed the actions to be “performative and insufficient when it was received in July, and its emptiness prompted the letter we published.”