Groomers at Petsmart in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania.
Susan L. Angstadt/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
PetSmart employees are suing the company on claims it’s illegally saddling staffers with debt.
Participants in “Grooming Academy” are required to pay back thousands in fees if they leave the company before two years.
The suit claims the policy “strips PetSmart workers of bargaining power that they could use to seek out employment opportunities in which they would be paid more or treated better.”
PetSmart employees are suing the company on claims that the retailer’s “free” grooming training program is, in fact, not so free after all.
In a class-action lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of the State of California, plaintiff Breann Scally alleges that though PetSmart “promises aspiring groomers free, paid training,” the company is illegally saddling staffers with debt by forcing some to pay back thousands in training costs as part of a repayment stipulation.
According to the suit, employees interested in participating in PetSmart’s Grooming Academy must sign a “Training Repayment Agreement Provision,” which states that if an employee leaves before two years, they are required to pay back the $5,000 cost of the training.
The stipulation also applies to employees who involuntarily leave the company if they are fired or laid off, the lawsuit states.
Scally writes that the stipulation “strips PetSmart workers of bargaining power that they could use to seek out employment opportunities in which they would be paid more or treated better.”
Further, the lawsuit claims the training fails to deliver on promises to provide “exclusive instruction from a dedicated teacher in a classroom setting as well as a supervised, hands-on grooming experience.”
“Prospective groomers quickly find themselves grooming dogs for paying customers and may have to struggle for attention from overextended trainers or salon managers,” the lawsuit states. “Despite its academic-sounding name, Grooming Academy does not provide employees with a recognized degree or credentialing.”
A PetSmart spokesperson told Insider that while the company does not comment on litigation, the company is “proud that PetSmart’s on-the-job training program offers a rewarding career path without the out-of-pocket costs associated with other training programs” which “can cost more than $10,000.”
“PetSmart is committed to supporting the professional development of our associates,” the spokesperson said.