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Earlier today, May 26, Dr. Scott Sampson, Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences, shared news of the following impacts to Academy staff during a virtual all-staff meeting.

Since March 12, the California Academy of Sciences has been temporarily closed in response to COVID-19. We have been fortunate to retain full salary and benefits for our employees through June 12, in part through $8.1M in relief funding through the federal Paycheck Protection Program. However, we are projecting a revenue decrease of about $12M, or 36%, for the upcoming fiscal year, resulting largely from a gradual ramp-up in visitation. This fiscal reality has forced senior leadership to make extremely difficult decisions that will directly impact many members of the Academy family.

Beginning June 13, the Academy will implement layoffs, furloughs, and reductions to salary and hours impacting 75% of the institution’s 504 employees. 105 employees will be laid off, 96 employees will be furloughed, 165 employees will receive salary reductions, and 11 employees will receive a temporary reduction in work hours. 25% of staff will receive no change in employment status at this time.

The Academy has prioritized an equity-based approach to progressive pay reductions, which will be effective June 27, to ensure that pay reductions are distributed equitably across the organization. Staff earning higher salaries will see the biggest pay reductions, and no pay reductions will occur for staff earning less than $75K. In addition, the Academy’s senior leadership team will take 15% pay reductions and the executive director will take a 20% reduction.

A small number of employees will receive hour reductions. For example, a full-time job might become part-time. In these cases, the Academy will continue the employee’s current benefit level rather than shifting to a part-time level.

Most staff layoffs will take effect June 12. All departing employees enrolled in benefits will receive a health stipend equal to the cost of six months of their currently enrolled medical and dental health plans to help ensure support during this public health crisis. In addition, all laid off staff will receive severance pay based on their years at the museum.

As the Academy prepares for a July reopening, which could be delayed as public health guidelines evolve, it is our hope that all furloughed staff will return with their full salary (reflecting pay cuts tied to current reductions) within three to four months, and that many will be back on the payroll within a few weeks. All furloughed staff will continue to receive full health benefits for up to six months.

Both laid off and furloughed staff will also receive access to a six-month online outplacement services program.

Regardless of impacts, all staff members will be personally informed of their individual job status within the next one to two days, most within the next 24 hours.

In addition to the information above, Sampson also shared the following thoughts with Academy staff:

“As the oldest U.S. scientific institution west of the Mississippi, the Academy has a truly remarkable, distinguished history dating back more than 167 years. Along this lengthy journey, we have survived earthquakes, fires, world wars, and pandemics. Ultimately, as with every previous challenge, we will successfully emerge from this crisis and grow to be even stronger and more impactful. If you want proof, look no further than the courage, resilience, and innovation you have all displayed since mid-March.

The Academy has never been more relevant. We are in the midst of an ecological crisis unlike anything else experienced in human history, with COVID-19 being the latest example. As a trusted institution sitting at the junction of science and society, we are well positioned to take on a powerful role helping humanity shift course toward a future in which both humans and nonhuman nature thrive.

But today we are not looking to some far future. Today we focus on the here and now, reflecting on the loss the Academy is about to endure. Many of the conversations ahead will be difficult. And all of us, regardless of any change in work status, will be deeply affected.

Of course, the greatest impact will be felt by those who are leaving.

To all of you departing the Academy, please know that you are in no way to blame. We are deeply grateful for the skills and passion you have brought to your work, all of which have made the Academy stronger and more impactful. On behalf of the entire institution, I thank you for your many contributions, and I’m confident that your future employers will appreciate the knowledge, experience, and talents you bring to your roles.

For those of you staying, please remind your departing colleagues that their contributions are forever part of the Academy’s legacy, that you are here to help them move forward, and that they will be dearly missed. In the weeks to come, we will be planning ways to connect with, and appropriately thank, these colleagues.

I am deeply sorry that each of you, and the Academy as a whole, must go through this transition. Please take time to process, reflect, and support one another in the days and weeks ahead.”

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