Former employees of the popular Australian jewellery company, Lovisa, are coming forward with claims of mistreatment and underpayment, paving the way for a class-action lawsuit against the retailer.
Former Lovisa employees have shared personal experiences, shedding light on the alleged mistreatment. Shannen Vonmunster, who worked as a retail assistant in a Lovisa store in Adelaide in 2013, claimed that she frequently performed stock takes from 6 am to 9 am without proper compensation. She revealed to Yahoo News Australia, “We were paid in Lovisa gift cards instead of actual money, and it was a $50 gift card for three hours of work… I don’t need more garbage jewellery, I need to put fuel in my car.”
Taylah Davidson, another former employee, stated that she worked similar stock take hours at a Lovisa store in Albury, NSW, between 2020 and 2021 and allegedly wasn’t paid at all. She explained to Yahoo News, “I was desperate to have a job at that time.”
A comparison of the claims of improper payment with Lovisa chief executive officer Victor Herrero’s reported remuneration of over $29 million is striking to the former employees.
Former employees also described the management at Lovisa as “toxic.” Davidson referred to “pedantic higher-ups” constantly contacting the in-store team, creating immense pressure to meet unrealistic targets. She claimed that regional managers would call during shifts to reprimand employees for not meeting these targets.
Vonmunster detailed her experience of being “bullied” by her store manager, leading her to submit a formal complaint to her regional manager. She said, “I have a history of mental illness… She would say just really awful things about it… It was demoralising.”
According to Vonmunster, management even discouraged employees from taking bathroom breaks, with only one person typically rostered on at a time, leaving the store unattended during opening hours.
Both former employees reported frequent tears due to the harsh work conditions they experienced while struggling to make ends meet. Other anonymous employee testimonies detailing harsh working conditions can be found on recruitment platforms like Indeed.
Lovisa operates over 700 stores across 30 countries, including New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK. In New Zealand, a similar investigation was launched in March 2021 by the Labour Inspectorate, which found multiple breaches, including incorrect use of staff’s annual leave on public holidays and wrong calculations in sick leave. Improvement notices were issued to remedy these breaches, with compliance reportedly confirmed in October 2022.
Allegations concerning rest and meal breaks were also raised, but there was insufficient evidence to find breaches. The Labour Inspectorate recommended that the company improve systems and practices regarding rest and meal breaks.
All Lovisa employees working within the stores are covered by the Lovisa Enterprise Agreement 2014, specifying minimum rates of pay and allowances. Adero’s investigation seeks to uncover whether practices like directing staff to skip breaks and work without compensation have occurred across Lovisa stores, potentially leading to a class-action lawsuit and compensation for affected employees.