Stealth Layoffs At J.C. Penney, Reports Say

JC Penney job cutsBy Kim Bhasin

J.C. Penney Co. is quietly eliminating more positions in its stores company-wide, sources familiar with the matter told us. Store managers watched a "secret broadcast" on Tuesday afternoon, where they were informed that stores must prepare to "work harder with less" in 2013.

"Service Leaders," "administrative assistants," and "office/cash room associates" are being cut from the hierarchy, effective April 5, sources told us. There's no word yet on exactly how many people the cuts will affect, and there has been no official announcement from J.C. Penney. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

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One company exec told us that the number is in "the thousands," since every store has administrative assistants and cash room associates, and James Covert at the New York Post reported that the final tally will end up at 1,500.

Around 300 of J.C. Penney's 1,100 stores have service leaders, with two to four of them in each of those stores, depending on their size, according to the exec.

A service leader is J.C. Penney lingo for a sales manager, explained an employee who was informed yesterday that he's being laid off. He described his job as "basically a second-level store manager" who had overseen multiple departments in the store.

"It was right after a secret broadcast that we were all called, one by one, to be notified about the dismissal. We were told thank you for your hard work, your last day will be April 5," said the manager. "And there's nothing we could offer you."

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Not everyone whose positions were eliminated have been laid off though. A veteran J.C. Penney employee told us that some associates were offered sales or sales support positions at the company.

"That's a rather hollow offer," he said.

J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson is in the middle of a transformation attempt at the struggling retailer. To trim costs, 19,000 employees have lost their jobs at the company since Johnson took over.

Some store-level middle management positions were eliminated last year as part of the restructuring. Salon receptionists were recently cut in favor of "fresh out of school" stylists. In-store associates have also experienced major reductions.

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