April 27, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
Rite Aid abruptly announced last week that it is closing its Forest Hills store May 2—and the company is now coming under fire from elected officials who say it has not provided its employees with enough notice.
Several elected officials penned a letter Wednesday to Rite Aid Chief Executive Officer Heyward Donigan criticizing the company for its sudden announcement that it plans to close its 71-14 Austin St. store.
The company informed workers about the closure on April 19 – providing them with only two weeks notice, the Forest Hills Post reported Monday. A spokesperson for Rite Aid confirmed the closure.
The manner in which the store is closing has drawn the ire of elected officials.
“We’re…concerned and must express our dismay at how the closing of a location in our local neighborhoods was reportedly handled,” the letter reads, citing the Forest Hills Post story which first reported the news.
“The handling of this closing would be completely unacceptable [if the reports are accurate]. We must speak on behalf of the employees and community members who are now being impacted.”
The letter was signed by Congress Member Grace Meng, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi, State Sen. Joseph Addabbo and Council Member Lynn Schulman.
The elected officials asked Donigan how Rite Aid plans to look after its workers when the store closes. Around 20 employees reportedly work at the store and belong to a union.
“We request to know what is being done to ensure the employees’ immediate wellbeing, as well as what opportunities are being provided to help them secure future gainful employment,” the letter reads.
“These are employees who in some instances served our community for 5+ years receiving fewer than two weeks notice that they would now have to find new employment.”
A worker who spoke to the Forest Hills Post Monday said that Rite Aid was not providing suitable job alternatives for the workers at the store. However, Rite Aid said in a statement Monday that it is in the process of trying to secure alternative employment for its employees.
The company reiterated Wednesday that it is helping its employees when asked to comment on the letter.
“We make every effort to transfer associates to other Rite Aid locations where possible and at this location the majority of associates are relocating to other stores,” the company said in a statement.
The company also said that the notification it provided its employees and its customers was not disruptive.
“The decision to close a store is a difficult one, and our notification process takes into account the impact on our associates as well as customers who still need to access and refill their medications without disruption,” the statement reads.