These Celebs Left Their Employees Out In The Cold During The Pandemic

COVID-19 has revealed to us a lot about ourselves and our culture. Priorities have been shuffled, and new perspectives have led many to reevaluate how they view the world and the people in it. However unfortunate the circumstances, it's pretty evident that the entire globe has been affected in one way or another — even celebrities. Sure, we've had some winners in the court of public opinion during the pandemic, but, for every Ariana Grande, it seems that we've had multiple Evangeline Lilys.

While it remains to be seen how lasting these revelations will be in time, COVID-19 has provided us with a powerful lens into how celebrities act and react during a crisis. Undoubtedly, many of the coronavirus missteps will be forgiven. It may take some time to cleanse our memories of that tone-deaf "Imagine" cover, but what about the stars who mistreated their employees? Despite their countless millions (and even billions) of dollars, the celebrity business owners on this list have all been accused of unfairly letting go of staff members with little to no regard for their financial security.

Now, being a lousy employer can be a PR nightmare for a celebrity in the best of times. During a global crisis, it risks being career suicide. Yet, for the A-listers on this list, the saving grace might be that they are not alone. Here are the celebs left their employees out in the cold during the pandemic.

Disposing the Queen of Nice

Through her incredible charity work and her "Be kind to one another" catchphrase, Ellen DeGeneres has been deemed the "Queen of Nice." But, the world Ellen came back to after The Ellen DeGeneres Show went on hiatus in the middle of March, was changed. In her first post-hiatus episode of the show, filmed in her multi-million dollar mansion, Ellen likened social distancing to "being in jail" (via Global News). Despite following with a punchline, fans weren't happy with the insensitive comparisons.

That was the big news until a story came out in Variety about the TV host's treatment of her core stage staff "of more than 30 employees." According to the piece, the crew had received no word from producers about their jobs for over a month, including details about pay, hours, or health. When it came time to film from DeGeneres' home, the crew weren't called into work. Instead, the show allegedly used a non-union tech company. The official word, when it eventually came, was that only four core members would be retained for the remote filming. The rest would receive a 60% reduction in pay. According to Variety, several other talk shows have maintained their staff's wages, including Jimmy Kimmel Live, whose host has paid his stagehands himself. 

As the controversy surrounding the comedian-turned-host's decisions only continues to grow, it turns out that even her former bodyguard has spoken out, revealing that DeGeneres is nothing like she seems.

Hell's Kitchen freezes over

On March 19th, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay revealed that each of his London restaurants would be closed on March 21st. In an Instagram post, Ramsay wrote, "Whilst we don't know when we will re-open, what we do know is by supporting each other through this terribly challenging time, we will come through this stronger than ever!" Though the UK government unveiled a job support package to encourage employers to maintain their staff during these unprecedented times, Ramsay and his management team reportedly decided to terminate the employment contracts of more than 500 staff.

According to The Daily Mail, the large group made up of chefs, waiters, and other restaurant staff members were informed by letter that they would be paid up until April 17th, but their jobs were not guaranteed to return when the respective restaurants re-open. The decision earned Ramsay some criticism. Food critic Marina O'Loughlin took to Twitter to call out the move. "Yet again, a day when multi-millionaires won't put hands in pockets while the little guys doing everything they can for their staff," she wrote. It wasn't only outsiders who slammed Ramsay either. Chef de partie Anca-Cosmina Toropu, one of those who lost their jobs, also took a shot. "Such a shame to see how the company that you worked for and gave everything you had for 2 years throw you away like you are nothing but a little piece of sh*t," she wrote in an Instagram post.

Spicy reception for Posh

Former Spice Girl and long-time wife to the legendary David Beckham, Victoria Beckham was forced to minimize operations of her company, Victoria Beckham Limited, when COVID-19 restrictions took hold of the UK. According to The Sun, the fashion company chose to furlough 25 of 120 workers, taking advantage of the government's furlough scheme. A source told The Sun, "Like many, Victoria has reluctantly had to furlough staff members. It wasn't a decision she took lightly but, for the long-term stability and profitability of the company, it had to be done." The source added that Beckham had "even forgone her own salary in order to lead from the front."

According to Perth Now, the fashion icon decided to prop up the 80% furlough package with an additional 20% to have her employer's pay remain consistent during the downtime. But not everyone was happy with that decision, particularly those who took note of the Beckham family's reported net worth in excess of £300 million. Piers Morgan, for example, tweeted out his disapproval, stating, "why are you taking taxpayer money the NHS desperately needs — and you DON'T need — to furlough your staff & prop up your failing business?" After the criticism, Beckham announced that she was reversing the decision, telling The Guardian, "These are tough times and tough decisions and we don't always get it right — all we can say is we are trying to protect our business and our staff."

Jeremy Jacobs is on thin ice

Jeremy Jacobs, the billionaire founder and chairman of the Delaware North, the multi-billion dollar organization that owns the Boston Bruins and the TD Garden where they play, took an unorthodox approach to provide financial assistance for the team and arena crew. According to NBC Sports Boston, Jacobs and his company were the last team in the league to step forward and take care of their staff. Due to the delayed response, some of the Bruins players stepped forward to raise some money for the people during the uncertain times.

When management's response did finally come, Delaware North announced that their 68 full-time staff would be placed on leave, receiving one week pay and eight weeks of benefits. For the part-time staff, the company created a $1.5 million fund for them to draw from. According to the Boston Globe, however, that money is only available to the staff when the final six home games of the year are officially canceled, a decision that may not ever come. For many critics, a man with an estimated net worth of over $3 billion at the head of one of America's largest private companies needed to put together a much stronger and more thoughtful package. As the Boston Globe put it, "The Bruins have barely done the bare minimum during this crisis."

Clipped Buffalo wings

Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins wasn't the only NHL owner to fall short of expectations in his crisis response. The owners of the Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bills organizations, Kim and Terry Pegula, took a similar approach. They decided to wait and see what would happen with the remaining schedule before taking care of their staff. "As of now, we expect the games to be rescheduled," Pegula Sports and Entertainment said in a statement to The Athletic regarding their decision. "We are evaluating next steps should the games be canceled." In other words, the staff will be paid if and when the games are played or officially canceled.

The Pegulas also made waves by terminating the positions of their hospitality staff. According to The Athletic, their jobs were not guaranteed to be there when pandemic restrictions were lifted. "As a valuable asset to our hospitality family when business returns to normalcy, we encourage you to come back and apply for an open position. You will be amongst the first considered to re-join our teams," the termination letters read. It wasn't just lower-level staff, either. The company also fired 21 employees, several of which were some of the longest-tenured executives in the company. Though they said the firings were not COVID-19-related, the timing was particularly strange, to say the least, no?

Moby's charity crisis

In 2015, musician Moby opened a vegan restaurant in the neighborhood of Silver Lake in Los Angeles, California. Per Los Angeles Magazine, with a reported net worth at the time of over $30 million, the celebrity owner announced that all profits would be donated to charity upon its opening. "Little Pine is an extension of my beliefs, so I have decided to donate 100% of the restaurant's profits to animal welfare organizations," he said at the time. Yet, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the restaurant to close its doors, Moby's charitable spirit was pushed to its limits.

According to Eater Los Angeles, employees were left in the dark after its services were halted. It was then allegedly one month before staff learned that the restaurant was officially put on "indefinite hiatus." The full-time employees were let go, and their health care coverage was canceled. As one employee said, "I am coverage-less in the middle of a global pandemic because my health care has been canceled by a multimillionaire." According to some, even getting confirmation that they would receive their earned vacation pay took weeks. After receiving plenty of vitriol on social media, Moby sent his employees an email. "I fully accept that the shut down could've been handled much better," he wrote, "and for that I take responsibility, and again apologize."

Flaying a celebrity chef

Celebrity chef and restaurateur, Bobby Flay, has five restaurants, a TV show (albeit one which some viewers have called out as fake), and one of the most recognizable names in the industry. After being forced to close his eateries during the COVID-19 restrictions, the restaurateur's staff were left without financial security for the foreseeable future. To help them, the multimillionaire reached out to the people for help through a GoFundMe campaign. Pledging to match every raised dollar up to $100,000 of his own money, Flay may have put a target on his back from critics for seeking public funds. 

"The loyal, creative and hard-working people of my fine dining restaurants are in dire need. The onset of this pandemic has literally crushed their ability to earn a living virtually overnight. Please find it in your hearts to give what you can," he wrote on the campaign page. The response probably wasn't what Flay expected. According to The Daily Dot, many Twitter users slammed the incredibly wealthy chef for asking for help to support the businesses that earn him so much annually. 

To make matters shadier, Flay even went out of his way to mute some of his critics. As one Twitter user wrote, "...You're too greedy to pay your valued employees to survive during a pandemic without donations from the general public? You're kidding, right?" She then followed up with a screenshot of a now-blocked Twitter account from the chef. Ouch.

Tesla breaks down

Billionaire Elon Musk and his Tesla company have found both good and bad publicity during the pandemic. The company committed its engineers to building ventilators to help COVID-19 patients, but Musk also called the panic "dumb" and demanded that leaders "FREE AMERICA NOW." Uh... right. In regards to the company's employment measures during the pandemic, Tesla has been a bit mixed there as well. According to Forbes, the company announced a series of pay cuts to survive the downtimes. "This is a shared sacrifice across the company that will allow us to progress during these challenging times," HR official Valerie Workman said in an email.

Salaries for vice presidents and higher would be cut 30%, directors would be cut 20%, and all other American employee salaries would be cut 10%. That sounds reasonable on the surface, but it's the handling of the more than 10,000 employees "who cannot work at home and have not been assigned to critical work onsite" that raised some eyebrows, especially considering Musk's astounding personal wealth. That staff was furloughed without any pay, though they did get to keep health benefits. As the New York Post put it, "Elon Musk is speeding toward a $750 million payday — even as Tesla employees are getting slammed by pay cuts and hundreds of hourly workers are furloughed."