Movie theaters, dental offices, a regional airline, a Vail resort, and several restaurants — those are among the first businesses that have informed the state that they have laid off workers due to the COVID-19 outbreak. They may be the first casualties to officially file, but they definitely won’t be the last.
The notices were filed with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act starting on March 17 through March 23, and were made public Tuesday. They all describe a closure due to COVID-19 as the reason for the layoffs and furloughs.
Trans State Airlines, which operates out of Denver International Airport as a United Express provider, informed the state on Friday that it let go of 329 workers through April 2, the largest of the layoffs posted so far. Brian Randow, the Missouri-based airlines chief operating officer, informed the state that the layoffs were permanent. The airline isn’t coming back.
The Four Seasons Resort and Residences in Vail told the state it was letting go of 243 workers, including 22 cooks, 17 banquet staff, seven front desk workers, 14 guestroom attendants, six building engineers, 14 mountain activities attendants and supervisor.
The state’s mountain resorts have been hard hit due to the closure of all the state’s ski resorts. Areas like Pitkin and Eagle counties are experiencing some of the most severe outbreaks in the state and San Miguel County, home to Telluride, is under a full lockdown.
“Due to unforeseen, unexpected and sudden reduced business levels as a result of COVID-19, all employees at Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail … will be placed on a furlough,” Jessica Beauchamp, director of people and culture, informed the state in a letter. The resort will be closed for the foreseeable future and the furloughs could turn into temporary or permanent layoffs, she wrote.
ClearChoice Management Services, which oversees a chain of dental offices, said it was sidelining 120 headquarters workers in Greenwood Village between layoffs and furloughs. The layoffs are permanent while the furloughs may extend up to six months.
Given the high risk of transmission from accidentally working on a patient with the novel coronavirus, the Colorado Dental Association last week strongly recommended that all members close their offices for weeks with the exception of emergency surgeries.
Movie chain Metropolitan Theatres also filed notices about the closure of its theaters in the state. They include the MetroLux 14, MetroLux Dine-in and Rocky Mountain Cinemas in Larimer County. Those locations are sidelining 120 workers, with 11 being put on furlough. Metropolitan is also closing the Wildhorse 6 Stadium Cinemas in Steamboat Springs, letting 21 workers go there.
Several restaurants also filed layoff notices with the state. They include Punch Bowl Social in Denver, which has let go of 81 workers; the Rusty Bucket Restaurant in in Westminster which dismissed 65 workers; and Tamayo and La Sandia, two Denver restaurants that didn’t disclose the number of layoffs.
Letting workers go is a tough decision. Some federal and state aid programs are conditioned on employers keeping their workers and using the funds to cover payroll. And employers always face the risk that workers they have trained may move on to other employers. Among those hiring right now are Amazon, King Soopers and Safeway and package delivery companies.
Wayne Cascio, a distinguished professor of management at the University of Colorado Denver, has studied the ability of companies to bounce back after an economic downturn. He said those who keep critical staff on board recover faster and perform much better going forward than those who cut to the bone.
Given the choice of letting go of assets, like cash, or letting go of workers, don’t make a knee-jerk reaction, he advised. Employees will respect and be more wiling to return to an employer that makes a sacrifice to keep them around as long as possible, employing strategies such as reduced hours, pay cuts and furloughs, even if they eventually must be let go. They will not respect a firm that cuts them loose at the first sign of trouble, he said.
“The more pain you can take before you let people go, the better you will be in the long run,” he advised business owners. But some businesses may be on the edge already and permanent layoffs could be a sign that they don’t plan on reopening.
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