QVC Workers Cry Foul Over 401(k) Probe Firings

August 21, 2009 ( - QVC employees fired over alleged irregularities in their 401(k) withdrawals are complaining they were treated unfairly and that they were driven to seek the retirement money because of company cutbacks.

A news report from Raleigh, North Carolina, television station WRAL said the employees discharged over the flap were notified of their termination by phone call. Former employee Stephanie Williams suggested employees be asked to pay back the money instead of losing their jobs. “You act like we stole something. This was our money,” Williams told WRAL.

“If I say I used it for rent that’s what I used it for. My problem is they know we’re in a recession and they are having a hard time this year. Why don’t they think we’re having a hard time?” former employee Shirley Kelley added. “They cut our hours and (there were) no raises this year. We got families.”

One ex-QVC worker said QVC officials were also unfair in selecting which of the approximately 200 employees investigated for potential wrongdoing should be discharged. “I don’t think that’s fair because QVC right now still has people in there that should be out here with us,” former employee Barbara Pittman said, according to the news report. “I just feel like they totally did us wrong.”

Company spokeswoman Tara Hunter defended QVC’s actions. “As the plan administrator of its 401K Plan, it is QVC’s responsibility to ensure that the plan is operating properly and complying with all applicable legal requirements, including the distribution of hardship withdrawals,” she said. “Accordingly, QVC initiated the investigation into the alleged irregularities and took appropriate actions in accordance with its internal operating principles.” Previous news reports indicated the withdrawals were loans.

Employees whose 401(k) activity was probed received an August 5 letter from the company saying they would have to meet with the company to prove their hardship was legitimate (see QVC Loan Probe Continues ). On August 19, the company announced that the investigation was complete, but declined to release details about how many people had been terminated (see QVC Ends 401(k) Loan Investigation ).