Some employees of B&H Photo Video are worried that they will lose their job for good – and claim that this is because they reported unsafe working conditions during the coronavirus outbreak.
After complaining about the company’s handling of the pandemic in March – including packaged internal prayer services for ultra-religious Jewish workers – some workers saw what the postings looked like for their jobs online. A position they would not go to, they suspect, if they were part of the internal board of the Hasidic Jewish staff company, which they said was getting special treatment.
“They really used COVID as a cover to get rid of some of us,”; said Dan Wagner, a nearly six-year veteran of the famous New York tech retailer, known for his conveyor-belt system of moving merchandise around of these three floors. megastore at West 34th Street and Ninth Avenue.
Wagner, a professional photographer who worked as a product description writer for B&H, said he believes he was never asked to work again after he raised concerns in March about day-to-day services in prayer, which took place in the company’s lunch rooms.
“I told HR that people should not congregate,” Wagner said, adding that B&H later announced in a newsletter that the two workers who attended the prayers had died from the virus late. of March.
Wagner also repeatedly pressed B&H for information after learning that a fellow staff member on the other floor had been infected with the virus, he said. “I believe they retaliated against me by simply asking if I was contacting someone on COVID.”
William Cannon, also a B&H content writer, said he believes he could not be returned because he asked for permission to work from home in March. “I said [HR] that I think I am not safe in the office, leaving the packed elevators and working closely with others, ”Cannon said.
Cannon, who has diabetes, was also disturbed by prayer services because it was held in the same room where he kept his insulin, which needed to be refrigerated. “There were 60 people packed there and I had to take the initiative to get to the refrigerator,” he said. “It’s uncomfortable for me.”
B&H told Cannon to use his paid time off until he had a plan from home, which he did a week later. “B&H is too slow to take the pandemic seriously,” he said. “I took all my PTO days because they had no plans.”
Cannon and Wagner said they were joined by nearly 400 other workers – almost 20 percent of B&H staff – on April 27. The company notified the workers by e-mail that they would be paid 2.5 days and receive health benefits until May 31.
Cannon has not paid for his insulin medication since June and is forced to share insulin with his diabetic uncle, with whom he lives.
Then in August, after several months without communication from the company, Cannon saw a Truth.com post for a mobile consumer writer for B&H, which is what he did for company. The post also called for gaming expertise, which Cannon said the manager knew he had.
“I did it as their way of getting rid of people they didn’t like,” he said of job posting. “Very suddenly there is no followup. It seems like a way to isolate people without telling them they were expelled.”
In the meantime, Wagner saw two listings for his job as a photographer on the company’s Web site, recently on October 15.
B&H did not tell the men any of its plans and they did not ask, but the megastore reopened to walk-in on July 1st.
After the furloughs came down, Wagner e-mailed his B&H managers to ask what percentage of the staff removed Hasidic, which the company declined to specify. That is when Wagner, who is Jewish but not Hasidic, said that he had filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging B&H discrimination against non-Hasidic employees.
Cannon, an African-American, said he, too, is considering filing a complaint of discrimination against B&H.
Wagner declined to share a copy of his complaint with The Post, but shared e-mails with the agency indicating he had filed one.
The B&H, opened by Blimie and Herman Schreiber in 1973, declined to comment on Wagner’s job listings or discrimination complaints, except that it “accepts EEOC findings.”
“B&H is one of the last retailer employees,” the company’s chief marketing officer Jeff Gerstel, told The Post in a statement.
“We are proud that employees who lose weight every week as we go around the challenging hours will be brought back to work. We cannot respond to individual employee issues.”
Wagner said B&H staff at Hasidic Jewish are getting special perks, including what he believes are sponsored shuttle bus companies to help them travel to and from work.
Shuttles, which cost employees $ 2.75 a ride, are not offered to non-Hasidic employees, he said.
B&H declined to comment on its role in providing buses, but someone close to the company said the retailer was named New York’s 14th best employer for Forbes 2020 in August.
The popular retailer has been twice accused by the federal government of discrimination practices, recently in 2016 when the Department of Labor accused it of hiring only Hispanic men for entry-level positions in the former Brooklyn warehouse Navy, and then subjected them to harassment and unsanitary conditions, including bathrooms that could not be operated separately from those used by non-Hispanic workers of the facility. The complaint also accuses the company of not hiring women, blacks and Asian workers at the Brooklyn facility, which has since been relocated to New Jersey.
The family-owned business “categorically denied” the allegations in 2016 but paid $ 3.22 million to settle the case and “avoid interruption of litigation,” it said at the time.
Legal experts like Carolyn Richmond say they have been warning employers since April to take precautions not to be identified when hiring fur workers.
“The question has become why employers do not reinstate an employee who has been fired simply because of COVID restrictions and joblessness,” said Richmond, head of Fox Rothschild LLP’s hospitality skills group. “It is definitely suspected that new employees will replace these workers.”