Hurricanes are rarely, if ever, good for commercial revenue. They damage physical property, may force stores to shut down for structural repairs to take place, and inhibit employees from getting to work because of breakdowns in communication and transport. But none of this seems to have stopped TJ Maxx from paying its employees in Puerto Rico.
The U.S. territory was recently ravaged by Hurricane Maria but the employees of TJ Maxx, Homegoods, and Marshalls will continue to get paid in spite of the stores remaining closed for six weeks. A spokesperson for TJX (the corporate owner of all three stores) told The Huffington Post, "Based on the devastating situation in Puerto Rico, we can confirm that we have continued to pay our TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods Associates on the island. We believe it is the right thing for us to do under these circumstances."
The generous gesture from the company came as the island is trying to recover after suffering between $45 billion and $95 billion of damage, according to analysts. Some economists have even estimated that it could take the island several decades to heal. According to The Boston Globe, the parent company TJX has 29 TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, and Marshalls stores in Puerto Rico. A spokesperson named Erika Tower told The Boston Globe that TJX's gesture isn't out of the norm as the company has reportedly given paychecks to workers "from time to time under extreme circumstances."
On social media, TJX's act was praised by Twitter users. A Facebook user Ivan Melendez posted about the company's generosity in Spanish. In English, the post reads, "I have to mention this because a lot of people do not know. The Marshalls shops in Puerto Rico have continued to pay their employees even without having their stores working." Melendez also talked about his son and how he worried for his income after the hurricane hit the region but he was told not to worry as the company had reportedly taken care of him.
The devastation caused by Maria has been reported on extensively but the death toll is still feared to be higher than reported. The massive Category 4 hurricane wiped out the region's electrical power, leaving millions without access to basic needs like power and water. According to authorities, the hurricane caused shocking damage to infrastructure in both residential and commercial areas. Trees had been uprooted, roofs were reportedly torn off, doors came unhinged, vehicles were reported to be floating in the flood waters, and much more.
TJX's conduct may inspire other companies to take much more humane approaches toward their employees during the time of natural disasters. Perhaps with the company's approach toward its hurricane-hit employees, other companies will feel motivated to create more empathetic and reasonable modes of communication and sets of expectations from their workers. If the United States is hit by another particularly intense hurricane season like that of 2017, it would help to have TJX's worker-over-profit model as a template for others to follow.
The subject is a frequently raised one during the time of natural calamities — especially hurricanes. If you go through Reddit threads on legal advice regarding employment, one question you might have seen is concerned with what a worker ought to do if a natural disaster hits his or her town and he or she may not be able to go to work. One such question on Reddit came up after Hurricane Irma was predicted to hit South Florida. In response threads, worried workers are told to prioritize their life above employment and stay home but in some cases, it can cost them their livelihoods. TJX is making sure its employees don't have to make these decisions.