Urban Outfitters Isn't Being Shy About Asking for Free Labor

October 8th 2015

Kyle Jaeger

Urban Outfitters, the hipster shopping haven, is asking its salaried employees to "volunteer" for weekend work in advance of the company's October rush. In an email sent to home office staff on Tuesday, the retailer said that it would really appreciate free labor at its fulfillment center in Gap, Pennsylvania, calling it a "team building activity."

Gawker obtained a copy of the email, and the message is pretty clear: there's a lot of work to do and not enough employees to do it. So rather than hire more seasonal workers or pay salaried staff at the company's home office in Philadelphia, they are simply recruiting "volunteers" to help meet the demand.

Urban Outfitters

"October will be the busiest month yet for the center, and we need additional helping hands to ensure the timely shipment of orders," URBN, the parent company of Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and Free People, wrote. "As a volunteer, you will work side by side with your GFC colleagues to help pick, pack and ship orders for our wholesale and direct customers."

That's right, workers have the opportunity to pick, pack, and ship orders for the company for free. It's like a job, except you don't get paid. Instead, the retailer plans to compensate its volunteers with lunch and transportation (if needed).

"In addition to servicing the needs of our customers, it’s a great way to experience our fulfillment operations first hand. Get your co-workers together for a team building activity!"

Urban has had its fair share of PR blunders in the past, including problems with its labor practices. In 2013, a class action lawsuit was filed against the company after it allegedly "allowed store supervisors to alter employee time cards in an effort to avoid paying overtime" and "willfully misclassified several employees as exempt from federal Fair Labor Standards Act overtime requirements," Law 360 reported.

But this recent controversy—which comes just days after Urban announced that it was doing away with on-call shifts for its New York employees—doesn't break labor laws, the company wants you to know. In a statement released on Wednesday, URBN wrote that "we asked salaried employees at our home office to volunteer for shifts that would help support the new center through a busy month of October."

"Unsurprisingly, we received a tremendous response, including many of our senior management. Many hourly employees also offered to pitch in—an offer which we appreciated, but declined in order to ensure full compliance with all applicable labor laws and regulations. The dedication and commitment of URBN employees are second to none, and their response to this request is a testament to their solidarity and continued success."