Updated with reply from corporate at bottom of page
As the COVID-19 pandemic grows, most companies are working to figure out plans to have staff work remotely if possible to avoid mass layoffs. We have heard of several transportation companies that have been forced to lay off a portion of their staff during this time, all for varying reasons.
As we previously reported, Freightos laid off 50 workers citing the growing impact of the Coronavirus. Mega-broker Total Quality Logistics also made the decision to cut a portion of its workforce. While Freight Broker Live originally reported that “less than 100” were let go across the country from satellite offices, we are learning that we were incorrect. Each day the total grew, and more people contacted us to say that they too were let go. Hundreds of them. In total, we are told that over 700 people were laid off at satellite offices as well as the corporate office in Cincinnati. It is worth mentioning TQL is the largest privately held freight brokerage with annual revenues of $3.6 billion with 57 offices in 26 states.
“I was working from home when my manager called me and said they needed me to come in to the office,” said one terminated employee. “When I got there, I met with the manager who told me that I was being let go. It was a shock.” This former employee, who wished to remain anonymous had worked at the logistics giant for just about nine months and said he was making money. “I just landed a massive account and then….boom…I am fired and this account will go to someone else.”
Sources within the company originally told Freight Broker Live the reasons for the cut had to do with performance and that “less than 100” were let go because they were not making their benchmarks. We were told all the employees terminated worked in carrier sales. This narrative fit with the reasons these employees were told when they were fired. But some digging and with the help of internal sources, we find that the mega-broker actually had to terminate the employees due to software issues.
An internal source told Freight Broker Live the employees real reason these employees were terminated had to do with current technology limitations at the company. We were told that although TQL recently invested millions in implementing a new remote-office capability using the Citrix Workspace but found out they “were not there yet” in terms of the company being able to handle their entire workforce working remote as companies are being forced to practice “social distancing” procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Rather than figure out a new plan, when members of the technology team told management they would not be able to handle all of TQL’s massive employee’s on the network, cuts were announced, sources tell Freight Broker Live. The decision was made to cut staff from every office and all departments, excluding their Enterprise and Information Technology departments. Managers were seemingly given the same script used to fire the 700 employees.
“They didn’t even offer a severance or anything, just told us they would not contest an unemployment claim, should we choose to file one. It really shows the how they actually felt about us,” said one former employee. “Then, a few hours later, we get the news that effective that same day, our health insurance in cancelled.”
In emails obtained by Freight Broker Live, former employees were notified that “all benefits except for vision will end at midnight on your last day of employment.” In addition, the email read “employees who received a sign-on or relocation bonus or employees who received education assistance and did not meet the specified continued employment stipulations will be responsible for reimbursing TQL for the full amount,” and went on to say that any amount owed will be taken out of the employees last paycheck, and if there is a balance, the employee will have to pay that back as well.
And if you thought that TQL was done, there’s more. The emails obtained by Freight Broker Live show that TQL “would like to remind” the terminated employee that “all terminating employees are subject to the terms and conditions of the Non-compete, Non-Solicitation, and/or confidentiality agreements” they previously signed which contain three components:
- “Non-Compete section- you cannot go work for a company that competes with TQL (1 year)”
- “Solicitation- cannot solicit customer or TQL employees to work with or for you (1 year)”
- “Confidential Information- cannot disclose confidential information which may include customer lists, pricing, etc. to anyone (No Limit)”
(Number three is a bit ironic, as last month’s data breach at TQL already compromised both basic customer information along with sensitive carrier data, including “tax ID numbers, bank account numbers, and in some cases social security numbers,” according to TQL Ken Oaks.)
“Now I am unemployed, uninsured and will likely not be able to find another job because everything is shut down,” said another terminated employee. “And even if I was to find another job, I would not be able to take it because of a non-compete? Freight is all I know!”
While terminations and layoffs in the logistics sector, and virtually all other industries, are bound to happen with the coronavirus pandemic spreading, one would think that a company as large as TQL, with the resources that TQL has would have treated their employees fairly…..honorably. While it is looking like we might have some hard times in the near future, the folks that were terminated have a much harder one.
Hopefully companies who might face a tough decision to cut staff as a result of whatever circumstances may be present, can look back at how TQL fired 13% of their staff in the middle of a national crisis, and say, we can do better. Our customers and employees deserve better.“
UPDATE WITH REPLY FROM TQL CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS
In response to our previous article titled “TQL sets the example as what not to do when an employer is forced to make tough choices” TQL’s Corporate Communications Manager, Tom Millikin contacted Freight Broker Live after original publication via LinkedIn and provided the following statement “Your numbers are incorrect, and grossly inaccurate. We separated a number of employees from the company because of under performance. No other internal or external factors played a role in these decisions.”
While we did directly ask for an exact number for the amount of employees let go as they stated our reporting was “grossly inaccurate”, we were told per “company policy, we don’t comment on specifics involving employee matters.”
In an email obtained by Freight Broker Live, sent to current company employees this evening, reportedly from TQL CEO Ken Oaks, the CEO reassures his employees that there have been “no layoffs outside of normal business separations,” and that they may see “a couple of stories on some false and inaccurate media coverage about our company.” The email also says that the the writer “feels great about what we have accomplished in the past two weeks.” Great about what they accomplished!
What concerns us is that mass layoffs of up to 700 employees are simply not, or should not be “normal business” operations, regardless of whether we are under a national emergency, the chances of a fired employee finding a new job are restricted by a non-compete. And we have to be honest, we are in a national emergency. It is simply not right and WE CAN DO BETTER!