Payless Shoe Looks Like a Heel

July 21, 1993

Seasonal jobs for young people in Carroll County have been few and far between this summer, but Payless Shoe Stores seems to have taken unfair advantage of the tight job market.

It is one thing for employers to capitalize on the scarcity of jobs, but Payless, a national chain, used the shortage in a most cynical way. It appears that its Carroll operation hired about a dozen teen-aged girls, worked them hard for a week and then summarily fired them.

Payless claims that it hired the teens in good faith, but then realized they were younger than 18, the company's minimum age for employment. It was forced to let them go, according to the Payless' corporate spokesman.

This story might be believable except it took Payless managers a week -- during which these girls did the back-breaking work of unloading cartons of shoes from tractor-trailers and stocking shelves -- to discover they were too young.

It also seems a little fishy that these girls were fired only after all the work needed to open a new Payless store in Eldersburg was completed.

If the company maintains a company policy that doesn't allow teen-agers younger than 18 to sell shoes, there was no excuse for hiring these girls in the first place. None of them hid or lied about their ages when they filled out their applications.

If the company needed people to stock the new store, why didn't it advertise for temporary workers or at least have the decency to tell the applicants that they were only needed for that task? With the lack of jobs available for teen-agers, the store probably would not have had any trouble finding temporary help.

The Payless managers should know that they really hurt some of these teen-agers. Thinking that they had well-paying sales jobs for the summer, a number of the girls quit other jobs they had. Now they are out of work and don't have hope of landing any other employment before they return to school. The summer job market in Carroll for teens is exceptionally tight right now. It is not surprising that a number of these girls have developed a very negative impression of the world of work and of American corporate behavior.

Payless treated these youngsters much the way the company deals with the thousands of cardboard shoe boxes that pass through its many stores: The company discards them after they no longer serve their intended purpose. These youngsters deserved better.

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