The following message was shared by Kohl's CEO, Michelle Gass, in a video message to all Kohl's associates on June 1.
Over the last several days, like much of the country, I have thought about little else other than the tragic events that were ignited by the horrific death of George Floyd in Minneapolis — a loss of human life that on every level was senseless and beyond comprehension. Communities across the country are in a state of deep duress and upheaval. This is a very painful and challenging time, reignited by this incident, and fueled by a history of the pain that comes from racism, discrimination and injustice.
There have been peaceful protests in numerous cities, and there have also been angry crowds and looting plaguing many communities for the last several days. Our teams have been staying very close to the demonstrations unfolding all across the country. Over the weekend we closed 76 stores in various parts of the country to prioritize the safety of our associates and customers, and we will continue to stay vigilant. Some of our stores remain closed today.
This past week has shed a very dark shadow over our country. There is pain, rage and a sense of despair. It is a reminder of what hatred, bigotry, and discrimination can do. It can destroy a community — a country — and it should stop all of us in our tracks. We cannot operate as a civilized society when parts of our population feel marginalized, victimized or targeted just for who they are. The only acceptable solution is inclusivity for all, and we cannot settle for anything less.
Kohl’s is committed to serving and celebrating all families. It is our responsibility to acknowledge injustices and commit to the actions and behaviors that will make Kohl’s and the world a better place. Through our diversity and inclusion efforts, we are focused on casting a wider net to attract diverse talent, strengthening our pipeline and ultimately contributing to economic empowerment.
I have always believed that fostering an inclusive environment where people can truly be themselves is instrumental in building a strong and sustainable culture. It’s a key reason that Kohl’s has the special culture we do, and the events of the last week serve as an important reminder to all of us to do our part in advocating for diversity and inclusion through our actions and behaviors. Inclusivity and the celebration of diversity should be a fundamental component of every part of our communities — in our schools, in our workplaces, in our stores and in our streets.
I also want to remind you of the relevant resources available to you. If you are struggling in any way, the Kohl's Employee Assistance Program offers free, confidential counseling to address emotional concerns. You can also leverage our Business Resource Groups as a source of community and support. And, as always, if you see any behavior inconsistent with our values, please speak up and report it immediately.
Racism is not a new crisis, it is a long-standing systemic problem that has yet to be solved. We must continue to work to address the underlying biases and issues. We can stand together against racism and discrimination. We can support each other. We can create the good we want to see in the world.
We are living in extraordinary times — and the issues we face today can seem overwhelming. We have surpassed 100,000 COVID-related deaths in the U.S. alone. The economic crisis now has left more than 40 million Americans unemployed. And, the outrage on racism I just spoke to in this country is tearing communities apart. There are a lot of reasons to feel scared, anxious and helpless.
As a Kohl's family, we've demonstrated over the past few months that in times of crisis and uncertainty, we must look for the good and move forward. When the problems seem too big to tackle, we must resist paralysis and take one step at a time — no matter how small.
We can be a part of the solution with this backdrop of fear and uncertainty in the country right now. Kohl's is a bright spot for people by being a place where everyone is welcome and respected. We create community — with our teams and with our customers. And it is our responsibility to be a safe place, on all levels, for our associates and our customers. And, that is how we, as Kohl's, can help.
As our country faces another crisis fueled by racism and discrimination, I hope that we again can take these lessons, face them head-on and work towards more resolutions and progress. These past few months have highlighted just how interconnected we all are as a global community. Our actions, our perceptions, our values and the way we conduct ourselves affect everyone around us. We can only solve these large, pervasive issues if we work together and commit to doing what's right. And what is right is having no tolerance for hateful or discriminatory behaviors in any place where we conduct our business.
We are a country in crisis. We need to heal together by uniting to restore peace and calm, and creating space for real dialogue and solutions.
Kohl's Chief Executive Officer