Essence Magazine to furlough staff amid pandemic

The pubication said the negative impact of COVID-19 led to the cancellation of major events such as the popular Essence Music Festival. 

Essence Magazine, an iconic American publication dedicated to covering all things Black Girl Magic since 1970, has furloughed staff “due to revenue losses” amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In a press release on Tuesday, Essence noted that the negative impact of COVID-19 led to the cancellation of major events such as the popular Essence Music Festival. 

“Six months into an unprecedented and continuing global pandemic, COVID-19 has had a broader and longer-lasting impact than anyone expected – and Essence Communications, Inc. (“ECI”) has not been immune to it,” the magazine said in an announcement on Tuesday. 

“Nonetheless, our commitment to successfully guiding this iconic brand through these immediate challenges and forward is unwavering. Our team and the community we serve are too important. The culture we reflect and create is too important,” the publication continued. “The platforms we’ve built for the celebration, inspiration and empowerment of Black women and communities are too important. This is why we are making the business decisions we are making today.” 

Read More: Essence Magazine sexual harassment claims ‘not substantiated’

The publication intends to “pay everyone impacted throughout this week and will cover their medical benefits premiums throughout the furlough,” which is expected to last no longer than six months. 

“We will remain in touch with all of those impacted to provide relevant and pertinent updates regarding this matter as we have them,” the magazine said. “We do not anticipate that any furloughs will exceed six (6) months. We are confident that the actions we are taking now will help ensure that ESSENCE is here to thrive for another 50+ years as an independent Black-owned media business.”

The bombshell furlough announcement comes three months after Essence Magazine was hit with internal backlash from its predominantly Black female staff.

Read More: Essence Magazine’s staffers anonymously call out toxic workplace culture

Accusations of pay inequity, sexual harassment, corporate bullying, intimidation, colorism, and classism are a few of the things the employees outlined in a blog published on Medium in June. theGrio previously reported, the disgruntled employees called on the advertisers to pull their ads until all of the magazine’s executives are fired, including Essence Ventures owner Richelieu Dennis.

After conducting an internal investigation, Essence determined they “did not find any evidence of conduct that would amount to unlawful discrimination,  harassment, or retaliation.” The company said it had already begun to take steps at addressing workplace concerns by hiring interim CEO Caroline Wanga before the allegations were raised, Essence leadership said they also participated in a workplace culture review by a third-party consulting firm, Center for Workforce Excellence, and updated company policies.

Meanwhile, Dennis issued a lengthy statement via Instagram this week, in which he addresed the shake-up at the publication due to the COVID crisis. He makes clear that “Essence isn’t going anywhere, whether it’s pages, stages or screens.”

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