Since its expansion to Santa Barbara County in April 2015, Haggen — a relatively small Pacific Northwest grocery chain known for its health food options — has taken over five Albertsons and Vons locations in the area. This week, Haggen laid off 14 developmentally disabled employees at those stores, along with a number of other workers.
According to a written statement from PathPoint, an advocacy group for ADA members, every Haggen store on the South Coast has terminated long-term developmentally disabled employees: one in Carpinteria, two in Five Points, four on the Mesa, one at Turnpike, and six at the Fairview location. In the first round of layoffs, employees received notices of termination during the week of July 17 and were let go four to five days later. In the second round of layoffs, employees received notices on July 21 and were let go on July 24.
PathPoint stated that Haggen has laid off “all” of the “courtesy clerks with developmental disabilities that PathPoint had placed with the original corporations.” Those who have been let go will lose seniority and will be forced to rebuild workplace relationships from the bottom up, according to PathPoint. Furthermore, the organization said, there has been talk of an agreement between Albertsons, Vons, and Haggen that prohibits laid-off employees from seeking work at any of the affected stores for one year.
PathPoint CEO Cindy Burton said, “I understand that businesses make decisions based on profitability goals, but the impact of a layoff on the people we support is so much broader than Haggen has considered.”
New Haggen store managers, many of whom recently transferred to the Santa Barbara area, claimed to know nothing about the layoffs. In Paso Robles, the new Haggen store has laid off 17 employees, some of them developmentally disabled, after dramatically cutting their hours, according to the Paso Robles Daily News.
Haggen Pacific Southwest CEO Bill Shaner declined to comment on any of the layoffs but said they were made “to ensure we’re operating as efficiently as possible.” It’s unclear how many Santa Barbara area employees in total were terminated during the two rounds of layoffs. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said “hundreds” were let go throughout Southern California.
“We have made the difficult decision to temporarily cut back on staffing at our stores, with specific reductions varying by store,” Shaner said. “We value the contributions these employees have made and are committed to treating all employees respectfully and professionally through this transition.”