Hobby Lobby stores have defied state-mandated lockdown orders and started to reopen stores in places like Ohio and Wisconsin, a new report claims.
The craft and art supplies store has been quietly reopening its stores in states where all non-essential businesses were mandated to close and has sent a memo to managers telling them how to respond if local authorities question why they have reopened. The memo was obtained by Business Insider, which reported on the stores reopening and on a leaked note in which executives wrote that the company "is going to make every effort to continue working the employees."
The news outlet noted that all 19 locations in Ohio and 17 of the 20 stores in Wisconsin had opened, even though they were still listed as "temporarily closed" on Google. Authorities have moved quickly to re-close those locations, with police officers forcibly shutting at least one Wisconsin store.
Some store employees also complained that they were not receiving clear communication from store management about what would occur when they returned to work.
"Last Monday we closed because we were a nonessential business basically, and that was fine with me," an Ohio employee said. "Not even four days later, we're reopened because they're saying we're essential now."
At least 32 states have issued orders for all non-essential businesses to close amid the spread of the coronavirus and arts and crafts stores have not fallen under the definition of "essential."The craft supplies chain had already stirred up controversy earlier in March after its billionaire owner, David Green, said that he received a message from God telling him to keep the stores opened. As Raw Story reported, the chain sent a letter to employees telling them that the stores would remain open amid the coronavirus outbreak after Barbara Green believed that God wanted it to be that way.
"In her quiet prayer time this past week, the Lord put on Barbara's heart three profound words to remind us that He's in control," the letter read.
"Guide, Guard and Groom. We serve a God who will Guide us through this storm, who will Guard us as we travel to places never seen before, and who, as a result of this experience, will Groom us to be better than we could have ever thought possible before now," it continued.
The chain had already been criticized for not offering paid sick leave or parental leave to employees. As The Inquisitr noted, Hobby Lobby had contended that it offered other benefits to employees, including a high starting salary and Sundays off, but has still been met with protests for employees seeking expanded health benefits.