'It's pure gaslighting': L'Oreal workers say they are being bombarded with screensaver images of smiling employees in the office, even as they dread returning to work in person

  • L'Oréal USA, which employs nearly 11,000 people, began calling its employees back to work.
  • Three current L'Oréal employees said that their work computers have been updated with screensaver images of smiling employees returning to the office and images showing new safety protocols.
  • Meanwhile, internal communications reveal a sense of fear and frustration among employees regarding the work-from-home mandate. 
  • "They keep repeating how positive people are reacting and it's bull***t because no one wants to go back," said a current L'Oréal employee who works in California. "It's pure gaslighting."
  • "Being together is a key ingredient to our culture and essential to the success of our business in a creative industry," L'Oréal previously told Business Insider in a statement. "As such, we have gradually returned employees to offices in locations around the world under a comprehensive safety plan only when permitted by local governments."
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To promote the shift back to office life, L'Oréal USA has been sharing stories and images of employees enjoying office life. But conversations with employees and internal communications viewed by Business Insider reveal a sense of fear among employees.

Three current L'Oréal employees who work in offices in New York, New Jersey, and California said that their work computers have been auto-updated with screensaver images of smiling employees donning masks and returning to the office, along with images illustrating new safety protocols.  Similar images and posts have been circulating on LinkedIn as well. L'Oreal is also offering gift bags of beauty products and snacks for its returning employees. 

 

L'Oréal USA, which employs nearly 11,000 people and whose brands include Garnier, Lancôme, and Urban Decay, began requiring employees to come back to the office in a staggered process with reduced capacity in early July.

"This week, employees in New York and El Segundo are enjoying their first days back in the office," read a July 2 post in L'Oreal's internal communications hub, which was viewed by Business Insider. "As our L'Oréal USA admin locations gradually welcome employees back onsite, employees are excited to reunite with their teams and continue to drive our business forward."

Frustration among employees

Despite the positive messaging, employee interviews and internal communications viewed by Business Insider suggest these photos belie a general sense of fear among employees at the return-to-work mandate. Similar companies have kept their keep their offices closed, such as Estée Lauder Companies, which owns the Clinique and Bobbi Brown brands, is not planning to open until October at the earliest.

"That's what is so frustrating. They keep repeating how positive people are reacting and it's bull***t because no one wants to go back," said a current L'Oreal employee who works in California. "It's pure gaslighting."

Another employee based in a New Jersey L'Oreal office also referred to the images and positive messaging as "gaslighting."

"The photo-op of it all, it's just so ridiculous," the New Jersey-based employee said. "Whatever L'Oreal puts on [your computer], whatever propaganda, is what you see."

These employees, both of whom were granted anonymity in order to speak frankly about their experiences, are just two of many L'Oreal employees who have expressed frustration with the companies decision to bring back its workers into the office. Business Insider previously reported on employees who expressed concern regarding returning to the office through questions submitted via an internal communication portal for a California office.

How L'Oréal is keeping employees safe

With offices across 13 states, L'Oreal has adjusted its plans for returning to the office according to local guidance. The company confirmed that capacity in the offices will not exceed more than 50% and that returning employees will be admitted to offices on rotating schedules that alternate with working from home time. 

In a statement to Business Insider, L'Oreal said that it is focused on protecting its employees during the entire process of returning to the offices.

"Being together is a key ingredient to our culture and essential to the success of our business in a creative industry," A L'Oréal spokesperson said. "As such, we have gradually returned employees to offices in locations around the world under a comprehensive safety plan only when permitted by local governments."

Employees who want to remain working from home are being required to sign a form that releases their medical information to the company in order for it to determine if they are eligible for reasonable accommodations, according to a post on beauty watchdog Instagram account esteelaundry and three current employees of the brand.

A representative from L'Oreal noted that the company "does not ask for any employee's actual medical records or details of a medical diagnosis. Any employee seeking a medical exemption from returning to in-office work is required to provide verification from their physician. In most instances, a doctor's note is a sufficient verification."

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