Reports: Lee Enterprises tells many employees to take unpaid furloughs

Davenport-based newspaper publisher Lee Enterprises is telling many of its workers to take an unpaid, two-week furlough or a salary cut, according to the news website and other sources.

Axios reported on Tuesday, Feb. 14, that Lee officials recently sent an email to many of its employees stating that a mandatory furlough time must be scheduled by the end of February. According to the Axios report, the email stated: “In order for Lee to comply with federal wage and hour laws, you are not allowed to do ANY work while out on furlough. Please do not read or respond to emails or voicemails, do not return calls and do not come into the office. Do not attend any function as an official representative of the paper.” 

Employees will continue to receive their benefits throughout the furlough period, and deductions for those benefits will continue to be taken out of their paychecks, the email read.

A report on the website in Virginia added that “the furlough only applies to those making $19 an hour (or $39,520 a year) or more. Those who are being told of the furlough have two options: Take two weeks off without pay together or separately before Sept. 30 or keep working, but have two weeks’ pay divided by the remaining pay periods and subtracted from paychecks.”

However, not all Lee staffers have been informed of furloughs, including some of Lee’s unionized newsrooms. Lee has not approached the unions of three Virginia papers that are represented by Washington Baltimore News Guild. Also, the United Media Guild, which represents staffers at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Southern Illinoisan, has not been notified of furloughs, according to

The furloughs are the latest challenges facing the company. Last year, Lee survived hedge fund Alden Global Capital’s hostile bid to take over the company. 

Also, Lee recently received a letter from Nasdaq as a result of the company’s continued delay in filing its annual report. The company must submit a plan to Nasdaq within 60 days on how it intends to regain compliance. 

Lee officials did not respond to a request for comment from the QCBJ on the furloughs and other issues.

Lee Enterprises owns 77 daily newspapers in the U.S., including the Quad-City Times, The Dispatch-Argus and the Muscatine Journal. 

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