Often, the best way to find out what is really happening at a huge company is to ask the employees themselves. That’s what we did. And we’ve added it all up.
Earlier this year, we asked for current and former employees of Home Depot to send us their stories about what it is like working for the world’s largest home improvement store. Our inspiration for doing so was the publication of the book “I Love Capitalism!” by Ken Langone, a billionaire (and capitalism lover!) who made his fortune from Home Depot. How great, we wondered, was the Home Depot version of capitalism for its own employees?
Not so great, as it turned out. Hundreds of Home Depot employees wrote to us to describe their struggles with low pay, coldhearted or incompetent management, union busting, harassment, dangerous working conditions, and much, much more.
Though we ran four separate installments of excerpts from those messages, we only published a very small fraction of the emails we received. To leave it there would be a waste of many heartfelt stories. So we decided to analyze the 212 substantive emails we received (the ones containing enough specific information to categorize, out of 600 total emails) in order to give you with a quantified picture of life at “Big Orange.” This is obviously not a scientific sample; the purpose of running these numbers is simply to present in a clear way the full results of our request for true stories from the bowels of Home Depot, and to make sure that all of our correspondents were represented, at least in aggregate.
Three-fourths of the emails we received were decidedly negative about the company; 19% had positive sentiments, and 7% were mixed**. We also broke out the most common explicitly stated accusations of abuse, which you see in the accompanying graphic. By far the most common single complaint was low or inadequate pay, followed by staffing and management problems, safety, various forms of harassment and discrimination, and even illegal wage theft. These are not all of the complaints that employees had—many of which could be summed up as “inhumane treatment” by their employer—but they are themes which arose again and again.
Words from the employees themselves illustrate the most commonly reported issues.
I worked with [a former college athlete]. He had knee surgery and was hired as disabled so he was the phone operator. He had terrible pain in his knee and started using crutches to get around. He was harassed by management because he was calling off too much. He was afraid to call off anymore as he really needed the job and had been threatened by management that he would be fired if he did.
As a college student I worked overnights at the Home Depot stocking plumbing. After a year I had developed a system that made my job more efficient, and created a safer environment for customers entering at opening when I’d just be finishing up…
One week my boss took a vacation, and in his place his unofficial assistant Jim, got to take the reins. It is 3 a.m. on a Tuesday, I am doing the normal routine, and making really good time. Jim proceeds to come to me and while I am up on a lift placing toilets in the rack proceeds to yell at me. I can’t hear him, so I lower myself on the lift and ask him to repeat himself. He wants me to stop what I am doing and stock couplings. I explain my system, that toilets and sinks will block aisles come morning, and that I will finish early anyway. He doesn’t like it, begins yelling orders at me. “I’ll treat you like a marine if you don’t follow my directives!” This guy never served. I tell him that he could report my insubordinate behavior to our boss when he returns from vacation and continue my work. He keeps getting in my face, literally a foot from my face and yelling at me.
When I calmly tell him he needs to remove himself from my personal space he gets racist. “What, you going to punch me? Call your homies and have them get me after work?” Just weird. I tell him to leave me alone and we will deal with it when our boss returns. He gets into my face again, starts doing these mock, gangsta hand movements. “I’ll fight you, I’m not afraid of you because you are black. I’ll fuck you up, call your homies.” I had no idea where this was coming from. I tell him to fuck off and call him a racist piece of shit. Put some bass in my voice and tell him to let me work or we are going to have some real problems. Scares him and he leaves me be.
I finish my work before the store opens. The next day I am suspended without pay pending an investigation to my threats. I had already reported him the night prior in the morning after my shift ended. Noting happened to him. My boss and the Store manager both talked to me about it, and assured me that he would get punished as I had witnesses that corroborated my story. A week later I was called into the office by my boss and fired.
I am a current employee of Home Depot. I’ve been there for 16 years. When you came to work it was uplifting, helping people. The aisles would be jammed with customers. Over the years they took away many good benefits, a list too long to even write about. Now I feel the tension as soon as I walk into the building.
You get sick of missing every birthday, christening, wedding, family get together and holiday both the day before and after or be too tired to enjoy it. See your kids grow up and not be there because you used to be scheduled any hours from 6-3,7-4,8-5,9-6,10-7,11-8,12-9,1-10, or 2-11 and it was a different combination every single week. Never a weekend off unless you requested it and you would not get both days it would be 1 and that’s if someone else in your department didn’t already request it.
You do get vacation time but you may be lucky enough to use it when you want but first you will have to work 9 or more days straight before you can. You can also try to use it over a holiday weekend but don’t plan anything because it’s a crap shoot and you won’t know until the week before you planned it for, and the cardinal rule is never ever put in for vacation over inventory you will not get it.
It’s a job I’m thankful I have but its changed so much I just look forward to being in my late 60s so I can retire and never set foot in another store again.
I was employed by the Home Depot from 2007-2009. There I started as a cashier, then moved to plumbing later.
I was an openly lesbian individual, and working on coming [to] terms with being trans. We had three other lesbians working there that I know of. We were paid shit, never got the hours we needed, and were punished for not getting our jobs done. My department had over 5,000 SKUs (stock keeping units) in stock that we had to organize, stock, process returns, and sell. There were only 2 full time employees, and a manager who had to be department head of two or three other departments...to ‘save money’, so there was very little coverage.
Add to it, we had this backwards command from corporate for “power hours” - which meant that from 7am-11am, then 2pm-7pm we were ONLY allowed to stand by the end of the aisle and help customers. You’d be written up for stocking. For a department with 5,000 little objects, and normally one person on hand, this meant we had 5-10 carts full of returns to put away, but no time to do it. That got me three of my write ups.
This comes to the trans drama.
We hired a new individual. She worked in Millwork. She was thin, nerdy, gorgeous hair, and passed very well. Until all the managers outed her to staff.
She was bullied horribly - I recall one cashier asking her where she got her boobs from, that they looked ok, and why they weren’t bigger. Backhanded comments. She wouldn’t get all the contracts she sold, stealing her commission.
And then the bathroom. Apparently ‘someone’ complained about her using the women’s room. There was a huge drama, with the district head of HR coming in and talking with her.
He called her a man, he said “we can’t let you in the women’s room because you might be a rapist and we have to protect the women.” And when she began crying, asking what she’s supposed to do, was told to “trust God”.
Eventually she was commanded by management to walk 3 blocks away to the Target and use the family room there. To do this, she had to find coverage, clock out, and walk there - losing at least a half hour a day of pay. She was threatened if she was seen using any other bathroom that she would be fired...
Fuck Home Depot.
I have worked at Home Depot for over 2 years. I was hired as part time, and that’s where I want to stay. I was a cashier for the first year until I was given the opportunity to work at the Customer Service Desk. I spend my hours at Home Depot making returns and performing more complex tasks like ordering merchandise for customers online and in the store. It can get pretty crazy and we do take care of most of the angry customers.
Recently NYS increased the minimum wage to $10.45 an hour. Shortly afterwards HD raised the hiring salary to $11 an hour. All of us who weren’t making $11 yet had our salaries raised to $11. So currently I am making the same salary as the people just hired to do the same job I am doing! Our HR hires whatever breathes. He does not consider whether these people can actually do the job and far be it if they are not going to be a good fit in the department. It’s very discouraging.
Home Depot has a program called the Homer Fund. This is a collection of money from the employees that is used for employees who have encountered problems with their home life - ie, fire, illness, problem paying bills, etc. Employees can request to be a recipient of the Homer Fund. The request is only approved if there is proof of a hardship, but many times this hardship has taken its toll on the employee and their family. The Homer Fund isn’t going to fix the problem. Many times I’ve seen recipients of the Homer Fund quit or be fired shortly after. I personally find it ridiculous that HD will ask its own employees to pitch in their own earnings to help the needs of our associates in lieu of paying a living wage.
I will be looking for new employment soon. I can’t fathom working side by side with the new hires who know nothing about what they are doing, earning the same wages, giving my hard earned paycheck to associates in need. This is no place to work. I’m retired and just looking for a little extra cash before I collect my social security. I came from a management position where I earned $36 an hour. I don’t expect to be paid $36 an hour, but I still expect and deserve respect and appreciation!
Inhumane work environment
My mother worked for Home Depot as a kitchen designer for 18 years. On November 9th 2017 one day after her birthday and one year until she could retire, they fired her, for not reaching her sale quota. The years leading up to her termination she endured harassment, ageism, sexism, and straight up abuse from her managers. Management sabotaged my mother’s sales by funneling big leads to other kitchen designers. She would get the scraps and walk ins.
She would call me everyday crying for eight years that she couldn’t take it anymore. I would tell her to keep her head down and to do what she had to do. My mother is bipolar and is dependent on a cocktail of (many) expensive medications. I help my mother financially and keep tabs on her mental health; the fear of losing health insurance hung over our heads every day. She endured the abuse for so long because staying sane is expensive. Now it doesn’t even matter- her insurance was canceled the day she was terminated and we were forced to sign up for Cobra.
Home Depot destroys marriages and families. It is one big fuck fest (literally). You are conditioned to believe you bleed orange. Meaning the home depot is your life and that becomes your core value system. I worked for the home depot back in 2001.
At the time I was a single mom and worked the night shift at one of the first 24 hour Home Depot. There no longer are 24 hour stores. It was definitely a man’s’ environment. I was constantly hit on by management and employees. It was demeaning and very sexist environment. This was was the norm. I [have] seen so many relationships and families destroyed by this companies so called values. If you work here you will get sucked into their lies, they will become your only family. You will spend all your time with your home depot family. You will Bleed Orange through and through.
I work at a Home Depot in California. Since working there, four of my paychecks have been “lost”. 1st was in June of 2017, 2nd in July, 3rd in August & 4th in October. After attempting three times (once with the store version of HR & twice with an assistant store manager) to get some type of help just to get paid, gave up figuring this is part of the price one pays for working for Home Depot.
Assistant store manager was asked on a Friday but “didn’t have time” so I told him Monday would be just as good - he never responded. So much for attempting to exercise some measure of grace.
More wage theft
My sister works for Home Depot and it is the worst company in the world to work for. My sister worked as a kitchen designer and didn’t make $14 per hour. She is a degreed design engineer with over 20 years experience in engineering. She was number one in the district for 6 months and sold almost a $1 millions per year for 4 years straight.
When she asked for a raise, her lying assistant store manager forged her signature on a legal document saying she agreed to a $0.26 per hour raise. She never met with this manager and never agreed to this terrible raise. This is an insult. The store manager backed up The assistant manager on this lie. So my sister did not get a decent raise. The managers are racist and the pay is terrible. She has taken a leave, because she is stressed from working a horrible company. They do not care about the employees... The only people making money is the managers and people in Atlanta Headquarters.
I worked at Home Depot for about two months before I quit due to ongoing sexual harassment. I probably worked a total of 40 shifts and had an inappropriate or offensive comment made to me at least once a day, every single day. The long term employees would call “dibs” on new employees and lurk near them and make totally outrageous comments. I got invited on vacations to Jamaica to celebrate another employee’s divorce… even a seemingly innocent older guy showing me photos of his kids (who were adults) made a comment about how even though he was old enough to be my “daddy” that wasn’t going to stop him from hitting on me.
Our thanks to all of the Home Depot employees who shared their stories with us.
**The “positive” and “mixed” sentiment percentages have been corrected. They were transposed in an earlier version.
Data analysis by Jennifer Kang. Graphics by Jim Cooke.