SeaWorld to permanently terminate some furloughed employees, SEC filing reveals

COVID-19 still having ’significant impact’ on business, company says

ORLANDO, Fla. – As financial struggles due to the coronavirus pandemic continue, SeaWorld is planning to permanently terminate some of the employees the company previously furloughed to cut costs, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The Sept. 4 filing shows SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. has “committed to a plan of termination, primarily impacting some of the company’s currently furloughed employees.”

[RELATED: SeaWorld furloughs 90% of workers because of virus crisis]

Earlier this year, the coronavirus pandemic closed theme parks, including SeaWorld’s, which caused the company to furlough 90% of its employees, in a move the new filing suggests the company believed would be temporary.

“Substantially all of these employees were furloughed as part of the Company’s efforts to reduce operating expenses and adjust cash flows in light of business circumstances associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” the filing reads.

The company’s parks have reopened with limited capacity but the financial impacts from the ongoing pandemic are greater than SeaWorld officials initially anticipated, the document suggests.

Because of that, the company has decided to make some of those furloughs permanent layoffs, according to the filing.

“Due to the sudden and unforeseeable economic impacts of the pandemic on the company’s business operations, that were not reasonably foreseeable at the time of the temporary furlough, the Company has determined that it will transition certain park and corporate personnel from a furloughed status to a permanent layoff,” the filing reads.

The company expects to spend at least $2.5 million in the process, according to the paperwork.

“As a result, the company expects to record approximately $2.5 million to $3 million of restructuring and related charges in the third quarter of 2020 related to employee severance costs.”

“It’s really not surprising,” said Dr. Duncan Dickson, former professor of theme park management at the University of Central Florida.

[READ MORE: SeaWorld earnings, attendance plunge as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on tourism industry | New attractions at SeaWorld parks put on hold until 2021]

SeaWorld Entertainment suffered a net loss of $131 million during its second quarter compared to the same time last year due to coronavirus closures and, now, its reduced capacity attendance and hours.

“When there’s no attendance, there’s no need for workers,” Dickson said. “It’s a sad state of affairs.”

All SeaWorld parks were closed from March 16 to June 5. The company began re-opening some of its parks on June 6 and by the end of the financial quarter, seven of its 12 parks were operating with limited capacity and hours.

The parks saw a drop in guests by 5.9 million compared to the same time last year.

Following the news of the furloughs, SeaWorld’s CEO resigned in early April.

New attractions that were in the works at the company’s parks have also been put on hold until at least 2021.

News 6 reached out to SeaWorld officials to confirm the permanent layoffs and received the following statement, saying the company has to move forward with the decision for SeaWorld’s “long-term success:”

“The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on each of our lives, in ways both small and profound. The same is true for the travel, tourism, entertainment, and hospitality industries, and the operations of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc.

While we were able to bring thousands of furloughed Ambassadors back to work and hoped to bring back everyone, the current environment requires us to setup the company for long term success. SeaWorld has determined that it must transition certain park and corporate personnel from a furloughed status to a permanent layoff.

We deeply appreciate the hard work and dedication of our Ambassadors to our company’s shared mission, values, and goals. Over our 60-year history, our parks have inspired millions of guests to love, protect and care for our planet’s animals and their habitats. We are sorry to have to part ways with any team members in this difficult moment, but their abiding commitment to our guests, fellow Ambassadors and animals is recognized and made a lasting impact.” – SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc.

Dickson said he fears SeaWorld won’t be alone in trimming workers.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Universal and Disney doing something along those lines unless we get a vaccine and get people back to traveling,” he said.

About the Authors:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.