Dillard's employee quits over store ordering workers to fill online orders

Posted on 27 March 2020 at 11:08am

COLUMBIA - A local retailer filling online orders raised questions this week about just how to define an essential business under the city of Columbia's stay-at-home order. 

According to the city, non-essential businesses can maintain minimum basic operations. But that does not include filling online sales and orders for non-essential businesses.

Duane Karlin quit his salaried position at Dillard's at the Columbia Mall on Wednesday after employees were told they would be working six days a week to fill online orders. 

 “This was something we had done as a store before, but it was maybe 20 orders a day. Now we had over 100 orders to fill,” Karlin said.

But the former employee said the store isn't filling orders for essential items.

"These orders are blouses, pants, makeup, perfume. It's not hand sanitizer,” Karlin said. "We're going against what the order says.”

When Mayor Brian Treece announced the stay at home order, he listed a few of the permissible exceptions.

“Shopping for groceries, going to the doctor or pharmacy, obtaining fuel for vehicles, continuing financial services, or meals for carryout and curbside pickup,” Treece said.

Dillard's is only allowing employees into the store, not customers. Karlin reached out to the city about his situation and it responded with some clarification.

"Filling online sales and orders does not fall under activities allowed by non-essential business," Karlin said of the city's explanation. 

“This challenge requires more than just personal responsibility. At the very least, there is a community responsibility,” Treece said in his announcement of the order.

Karlin made his decision to quit on that point.

"With what's going on, I don’t think this is socially responsible," he said.

Julie Guymon, a corporate spokesperson for Dillard's, Inc., said that the company is considered an essential business under the city's order.

"We believe we are in compliance with the Stay at Order under the definition of 'Essential Businesses' in paragraph 27 "businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, beverages, goods, or services to Residences or other 'Essential Businesses,'" Guymon wrote in response to a KOMU 8 request.