Seven Hickory city employees were laid off from their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Six were from Hickory Parks, Recreation and Sports Tourism and one from Hickory Public Library.
The employees included recreation programmers and a reference librarian, Hickory Communications Specialist Sarah Killian said.
Hickory City Manager Warren Wood said the employees were notified last Friday.
Wood said the employees were laid off because facilities have been closed or opened on only a limited basis.
“The reality is, we don’t have work,” he said.
Wood said the employees were given a three-month severance package which included three months of pay and health insurance for those months.
Employees were told they could reapply for their positions once the jobs become available again, Wood said. “Hopefully, in three months this will be past us,” Wood said.
The seven employees who were laid off were among a group of 37 employees in the parks and library departments who were furloughed in April, Killian said. The remainder of those employees are still furloughed.
The layoffs led to the creation of a Change.org petition titled, “Reinstate Hickory Park and Recreation Staff.” “There appears to be no viable justification for the layoff, as the sports programs have continued to grow over the past few years,” according to the petition.
All of those who were let go were 50 years old or older and had worked with the department for at least 10 years, according to the petition.
The petition is requesting all employees to be reinstated with full benefits. It also noted that there was no record of the city council discussing or voting on the layoffs.
However, the city manager has authority to institute layoffs or furloughs without the approval of council, Mayor Hank Guess said.
As of Tuesday, more than 130 people have signed the petition.
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