SeaWorld Puts 90 Percent of Its Workforce on Unpaid Leave

By Victor Westerkamp

SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment announced last Friday it would put over 90 percent of its workforce on unpaid leave starting April 1 for an indefinite duration due to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.

“We are continuing to monitor this evolving COVID-19, coronavirus, situation closely and coordinating with public health officials,” the announcement states on the website. “We look forward to welcoming our valued guests back to our parks soon.”

SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment is headquartered in Orlando, Florida, and operates various theme and attraction parks like SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Adventure Island, and others and was rated the ninth-largest theme park operator in the world in 2017 with about 20.8 million visitors. However, due to the COVID-19 crisis and the ensuing perpetual shuttering of its theme parks, the company has to buckle up severely.

In an 8-K filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on March 27, 2020, the company announced, “In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting temporary park closures, it will or has temporarily furloughed over 90% of its current employees as of April 1, 2020,” the statement read.

The SEC briefing also disclosed that “furlough” means go and seek unemployment benefits: “The furloughed employees will not receive compensation from the Company during the furlough period after March 31, 2020; however, subject to local regulations, these employees will be eligible for unemployment benefits.”

No term was given as to how long this furlough would last. “The furlough period is uncertain at this time due to the temporary park closures and will be reassessed as business conditions dictate,” the notice said.

Stingray SeaWorld
Visitors in the giant aquarium of Nausicaa Seaworld center observe a safe distance from a swimming stingray on Dec. 28, 2018, in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

Cindy Sarko, a spokesperson for Busch Gardens Williamsburg, which is also part of the SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment group, shared with the WYDaily that due to the park’s foreclosure the management had no other choice than to lay off most of its staff:

“As a company in an industry dependent on travel and tourism, the current pandemic has impacted our business significantly,” Sarko said. “Our parks will remain closed and are unable to generate revenue; therefore, we have made the painful but necessary business decision to temporarily furlough over 90% of our current workforce, including corporate employees, to position the company for long-term viability. During this time, our focus is on resuming normal operations and welcoming back guests and Ambassadors as quickly as possible.”