L.L. Bean rehires workers fired in pricing dispute

By Bonnie Washuk, Sun Journal
Posted June 30, 2011, at 6:51 p.m.

FREEPORT, Maine — Outdoor retailer L.L. Bean has rehired four Lewiston workers it fired for buying a $169 leather tote bag for $19, an incorrect price listed on the company’s website.

A spokeswoman said Thursday that the company has apologized to the workers and will pay them lost wages. They will resume working “as soon as their schedules allow,” Public Affairs Manager Carolyn Beem said.

She said the company will create a new policy on what workers should do if they see a price that could be wrong.

The workers were rehired after the company completed an independent review of personnel decisions, Beem said in a prepared statement.

The statement came out one week after Auburn lawyer Rebecca Webber said she was representing the fired workers.

“The ladies involved feel glad that their ordeal has come to an end, and are glad that they will be going back to work,” Webber said Thursday. “L.L. Bean ought to be applauded for taking full responsibility for what happened. I’m glad they did that.”

The four women, who have not been identified, work at L.L. Bean’s downtown Main Street building, the former Peck’s department store

None was fired for misconduct, Webber said.

Toby Tiner, who works in human resources for L.L. Bean, “used the word ‘wrong’ in a letter to [the fired workers], to his credit and the company’s credit,” Webber said. “It isn’t just that the discipline wasn’t justified, but that there was no misconduct at all.”

L.L. Bean’s statement read, in part: “In accordance with our well-established fair treatment review process, L.L.Bean has concluded that the disciplinary actions taken were not justified.

“Proper protocols for reporting possible pricing discrepancies will be in place for the future, and employees will receive training on the new protocols.”

Beem said the fair-treatment review process took place last week.

In a June 24 story, several fired workers interviewed by the Sun Journal said they were customer service representatives who fielded incoming calls and placed customers’ orders. When they found out about the discounted tote bag, they called the company’s online service to place their own orders.

Word got out about the apparent sale item, and others put in orders until the item was flagged and the price corrected. A week later, the workers were investigated for fraud, they said.

“We were never trained to question the price,” said one. “We were always told to trust the system.”

They weren’t being conniving or stealing, she said. Something was on sale.

“We said, ‘Hey, this is a good deal. Let’s get it.’”

See more news from the Sun Journal at http://www.sunjournal.com/.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/06/30/business/l-l-bean-rehires-workers-fired-in-pricing-dispute/ printed on October 30, 2014