A woman from Madera, Calif., claims she was discriminated against during a job interview at Macy’s in Fresno. It wasn’t due to the fact that she is a woman, she says it was because she’s a military veteran.
Army Specialist Kayla Reyes, 21, returned home from Afghanistan after a nearly year-long deployment and began looking for employment opportunities. She is still enlisted in the National Guard.
Reyes told TheBlaze on Friday that she interviewed for a sales associate position at Macy’s in February. What she was reportedly told by the hiring manager disturbed her, making her feel like her military service was somehow now a burden in civilian life.
Operating from what Reyes says is a misconception about former military personnel, the veteran claims the hiring manager was focused on her time at war.
Reyes confirmed that she was told “you wouldn’t really know how to approach people” because she’s “been over there” — meaning Afghanistan.
“Once a customer’s in your face, you wouldn’t know how to do it. You wouldn’t know how to react,” Reyes recalled the hiring manager saying.
In addition to her military service, Reyes also has past retail experience, which should make her an easy hire. Instead, she was allegedly told that she “wouldn’t be able to do good here.” She was told that perhaps a job in “loss prevention” would be a better fit.
“It’s just frustrating,” she told TheBlaze. “Here I am at 21, having served overseas, and I can’t get a job at Macy’s. It’s crazy.”
But she also said she is grateful for the outpouring of support she has received from “thousands and thousands” of people across the country who have shared her story on social media sites.
Betsy Nelson, Macy’s vice president of media relations in the Northwest region, released the following statement on the incident earlier this month:
“Employing veterans￼ is a priority at Macy’s, and we have proudly hired thousands to work within our stores and corporate organization. Our commitment to veterans is strong, as we recognize that veterans possess leadership skills that we find are essential in a dynamic department store environment. Ms. Reyes’ application for a position with Macy’s is, in fact, still under consideration as we continue to consider the types of retail jobs that may be available. We are actively looking for an appropriate open position that would be best suited for her skills and experience level, as we do with all prospective employees.”
The statement does not address the hiring manager’s alleged comments or behavior.
Reyes said a Macy’s representative later offered her a job after her story went viral, but she turned it down. The company has yet to actually apologize to her over the incident.
Reyes told TheBlaze she is no longer interested in working at Macy’s and has instead accepted a job with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
On Friday, Macy’s posted another statement on Facebook:
Thank you for reaching out to Macy’s and giving us the chance to speak
to you directly. Macy’s commitment to our veterans is sincere and
strong. As a company that stands for inclusion in the workplace and our
stores, we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We proudly
employ thousands of veterans within our organization, as we know that
veterans possess leadership skills that are an asset in a dynamic
department store environment. As with any prospective employee, we
actively looked for appropriate and available positions that would be
best suited for Ms. Reyes’ skills and experience level, and, in fact,
identified and offered her a job at our store. We were disappointed
when she declined.
At Macy’s, we have created a special
Military Executive Development Program where we train veterans for key
executive roles, giving them the tools and industry training to position
them for success. In addition, Macy’s has partnered with the Got Your 6
organization for a campaign in our stores to raise funds and awareness
to assist veterans as they return to civilian life. Last year, we raised
over $3.4 million with our customers and look forward to raising more
funds this year.
In response, Reyes wrote: “Correct. A few weeks after the interview and after this story went viral, I did receive an email for a job there. I was very respectful in my response to them. I did not feel comfortable working in a store where a job was offered to me because of the way this has all turned out. I have kept my military bearings throughout this entire situation. Thank you. Spc. Reyes Kayla.”
Watch a past interview Reyes did with a local CBS affiliate:
This story has been updated.