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Emily Weiss built her cosmetics company Glossier on a message of inclusivity. Find out why that inclusive message doesn't mean much to her former employees.

Did Emily Weiss foster a culture of racism at Glossier?

Emily Weiss, founder and CEO of the cosmetics company Glossier, now finds herself in the same shaky boat as Ellen DeGeneres. Just like the toxic workplace on The Ellen Show, Glossier has been accused of fostering a culture of racism & exclusivity. 

After Glossier announced that it would be closing all its physical stores and laying off the employees working there, a band of former employees decided to come forward with a laundry list of complaints. In an open letter, posted on a series of social media named “Outta the Gloss” playing on Glossier’s own account “Into the Gloss”, these employees outlined glaring issues that occurred while working for the cosmetics company. 

The biggest issue cited by these former employees was racist behavior many employees of color had to endure customers. Emily Weiss responded to these complaints, vowing to do better, though her employees have found her answer unsatisfactory. Take a look at claims made against Emily Weiss & Glossier. 

An unsafe work environment 

The accusations of racism against Glossier frequently cite demeaning customer interactions as a cause. These include a group of white teenagers using a dark foundation to paint on blackface, a customer repeatedly referring to Latinx employees as “illegals”, and a mixed-race employee recounting the times customers put their fingers in her hair. 

The Glossier employees on “Outta the Gloss” acknowledged that unpleasant customer interactions “can be the pitfalls of working in retail”. However, the employees also noted that the company consistently sided with the customer, dismissing the discomfort of their own staff. 

Glossier’s former employees stated in their open letter,

“We staunchly believe the idea that a sale supersedes the humanity and dignity of an employee is abhorrent no matter where one works, and came to Glossier because of its emphasis on human connection. Unfortunately, we were worn down by the contrast of the idyllic culture presented to us online, in our first days with Glossier, and the weight of our daily indignities.”

Rat feces & broken toilets 

The inner workings of Glossier were not much better for employees. The letter addressed poor working conditions in many stores, including a broken air-conditioner in NYC summer heat, occupancy violations in showrooms, and rat feces littering a backroom break space. One story included a store with a single – frequently broken – toilet shared by thirty employees. 

Employees also called out management for dealing poorly with complaints about customers or disputes between staff members. A specific instance recounted was an employee who was screamed at by her manager when a family crisis forced her to quit. The manager allegedly refused to give the employee any recommendations or even permission to put her work experience at Glossier on her resume.

Talking the talk 

In response to the many allegations against Glossier, Emily Weiss posted on Glossier’s blog to address the issues. Weiss stated in her post that the issues “echo conversations we had earlier this summer.” She added that the company was already using the feedback from earlier discussions with employees and taking steps to “build a better work environment”.

The former retail employees found Weiss’s response to be “performative and insufficient”. Weiss had included in her post an email sent July 10 to all employees outlining their proposed plan to create a more inclusive workplace. The employees stated that the email was what prompted their open letter in the first place as they deemed the promises made by Weiss to be “empty words”. 

The employees claimed that Weiss skirted past the issues and that her response on a company blog and not on a public platform was also problematic. The response to Emily Weiss’s blog post states, “Please note that we’ve called for transparency, and instead our layoffs and this response were both buried in an obscure ‘Company Blog’, and not across social channels like the Black grant initiative.”

On Monday, Glossier’s official Instagram posted a slideshow and publicly apologized to all former Glossier retail employees. The post also outlines a “plan of action” for the company to implement company-wide inclusivity, anti-racism, and equity training. Glossier thanked their former employees for “holding us accountable”. The “Outta the Gloss” account acknowledged the apology but also stated, “their work is not yet done.”

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