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Clearwater CEO apologizes after asking staff to work through Hurricane Ian

Bernadette Berdychowski and Tracey McManus, Tampa Bay Times on

Published in Weather News

TAMPA, Fla. — Days before a dangerous Category 4 storm barreled toward Florida’s Gulf Coast, the chief executive of a Clearwater, Florida-based marketing agency sent texts downplaying the storm’s impact and encouraging staff to bring their pets and kids in the office so they wouldn’t miss work.

Only after outrage spread on social media on Tuesday did Joy Gendusa, the head of PostcardMania, announce it would close its headquarters for Wednesday and Thursday to turn it into a hurricane shelter for employees instead. The company is known for using a business management system tied to the Church of Scientology, also based in Clearwater.

Gendusa sent a staff memo Wednesday apologizing to employees who “felt that it came across as insensitive,” according to the email provided by Jessica Lalau, PostcardMania director of marketing and communications.

At the time Gendusa sent the texts on Monday requiring staff to work, Hurricane Ian was originally projected to hit Tampa Bay directly and bring 10 feet in storm surge. Officials in Pinellas County mandated residents in zones A, B and C to evacuate from their homes.

“I’ve lived here for over 30 years. There is always more hype in the media than any storm that has ever hit here. PostcardMania is the best place to be,” Gendusa said text messages obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.

Workers were expected to come to the office at 2145 Sunnydale Blvd., which is in a non-evacuation zone and built to withstand Category 5 winds, “to continue to service our national clients.” Employees were told they could bring their pets and kids, and there would be “movies and fun” for the children to enjoy.

 

“It’s super strong — bring your pets if you feel the need. I doubt in the end you will really need to,” texts from Gendusa said. “We are not closing. We are working.”

Gendusa’s directive went viral on social media after first being reported on Twitter by labor rights writer Jonah Furman. Lalau said employees have since been granted two paid days off for Wednesday and Thursday.

The company that Gendusa founded in 1998 has grown to make about $50 million each year and employ 300 people in the Tampa Bay area. PostcardMania has about 73,000 customers in 350 industries and it was ranked 12th among the top midsized companies to work at in Tampa Bay for 2022′s Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces.

PostcardMania’s focus on productivity and statistics, even in the face of a natural disaster, is reflective of its use of a business management system tied to Scientology, where Gendusa is a longtime member. While the company discloses its use of the system to employees upfront, describing it as a secular tool or “technology” created by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, the implications are not always clear to staff until they are inside.

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