May 24—SALEM, N.H. — The last conversation many recently fired Bull Moose employees had with company leadership was about a debated decision to do away with a mask mandate Monday.
The issue came to a head several days prior, according to employees, when customers in the store were sent away suddenly and workers were told to go home early after a visit from higher-ups.
A mass email the following day from CFO Chris Brown informed the staff of 20 that their employment was terminated.
According to the former employees, they were accustomed to feeling unsupported by leadership, especially in difficult situations with the Bull Moose customer base.
Gianna Valenti, 19, said the mask issue was "a turning point."
"It's retail, so there's a lot of things that happen that we have to say: We can do it. We'll take it. It hurts, it's terrible, but it happens," she said. "But there were a lot of concerns about sexism, racism, and homophobia from customers. Nothing was done when we expressed our concerns."
Darius DeLeon, a 20-year-old Latino and African American man fired last week, describes being chased and called racial slurs at the Salem store. Once during the pandemic, a customer unhappy about being asked to wear a mask spat on DeLeon's face, he said.
"I've always shown up for my shifts and I was a reliable employee. I don't understand what I've done wrong," he said over the weekend. "I never felt supported by anyone high up at the store. Now is no different."
His former co-worker Melaysha Chao-Sar, 21, said employees talked about unionizing or walking out to demand better treatment.
"There's solidarity between workers at all the stores (11 Bull Moose locations across Maine and New Hampshire)," she said. "These things aren't just happening in Salem."
Without staff, the 419 South Broadway location has been temporarily closed. A sign seeking applicants is posted on the entrance.
Attempts by The Eagle-Tribune to contact Bull Moose management directly have been unsuccessful, but a post on the business's Facebook page Saturday evening states that the Salem closure had "absolutely nothing to do with masks or face coverings for employees or customers."
No comment has been provided regarding the other workplace allegations.
Venus Delgado, 19, said she was direct with management about the store's needs.
"We were understaffed and overworked," she said.
Stevie Devaney, a 23-year-old woman who quit in April, claims repeated sexual harassment from customers led her to walk away.
"The company promotes that they're compassionate and understanding," she said. "But that's not the people in the office."