JC Penney workers in New Hampshire are facing a sticky situation with their employer and the new Hampshire Department of Employment Security (NHDES). JC Penney was forced to close their West Lebanon, New Hampshire store after it was flooded in Hurricane Irene–the store will not reopen until April of 2013; this means, for the stores faithful employees, they will either have to find part-time work or satisfy unemployment requirements until that time.
For the JC Penney employees, some of whom have worked for the company nearly 20 years, the most realistic option is to stay on unemployment until the store reopens. Unfortunately, the NHDES requires those on unemployment to actively seek out new jobs and provide weekly evidence of this activity by providing “contacts” that they have talked to about acquiring work. JC Penney corporate policy also restricts employees from working for competitors in the retail industry, which is an industry that for many of them is the only one they know.
JC Penney’s corporate leadership has been made aware of the unfolding situation and is considering several options to remedy it, including a potential plan to pay the employees all or part of their wages until the store reopens next year.
Until a final decision is made by JC Penney’s corporate branch on whether or not they will pay the workers during the downtime, Darrell Gates, a commissioner at the Department of Employment Security tells the worried JC Penney employees to “look for a job that [will employ them until April].”