ORLANDO, Fla. — SeaWorld Entertainment laid off almost 1,900 employees this month at its Orlando-based corporate office as well as its theme parks, according to documents submitted to the state.

What You Need To Know

  • SeaWorld laid off almost 1,900 Orlando-area workers this month

  • Layoffs disclosed on September 4, but SeaWorld didn't release a number

  • SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica, Discovery Cove, corporate offices impacted

  • SeaWorld said the ongoing pandemic has hurt its businesses

On September 4, SeaWorld said it would permanently lay off some of its workers who had been furloughed since April, when the parks shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, SeaWorld wouldn’t disclose how many workers had been affected by the decision.

But a notice SeaWorld filed with the state revealed that it had laid off 1,896 employees across SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Orlando, Discovery Cove, and its corporate office.

SeaWorld cited the pandemic as the reason behind the decision.

“Due to the sudden and unforeseeable economic impacts of the pandemic on our Florida business operations, that were not reasonably foreseeable at the time of the temporary furlough, SeaWorld has determined that it must transition certain park and corporate personnel from a furloughed status to a permanent layoff,” SeaWorld Orlando President Kyle Miller wrote in the notice.

The layoffs affected a variety of positions, including 455 food service attendants, 272 park operations hosts, 121 performers, 123 sales clerks, 55 line cooks, and 29 lifeguards.

SeaWorld reopened its Florida parks in early June, bringing back thousands of workers. However, due to capacity limitations and other restrictions, the company had not called back hundreds more who remained on furlough.

One of those now former workers said he wishes SeaWorld would've communicated more with employees in the months they were furloughed.

"There was the assumption we would be going back to SeaWorld so no one was really looking for another job or another temporary offering," Matthew Kellam said. "But as soon as that layoff happened, we're all now scrambling and looking for other jobs."

In a statement sent to Spectrum News earlier this month, spokeswoman Lori Cherry said, “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."

A few former employees reached out to Spectrum News and said SeaWorld changed its severance policy before the layoffs went into effect, reducing how much workers would receive.

SeaWorld wouldn't comment specifically about whether it changed the policy ahead of the layoffs.  

SeaWorld’s layoffs are the latest blow to the Orlando tourism industry, which has been hit hard by the pandemic. Universal Orlando laid off an undisclosed number of workers in July after parent company Comcast reported a huge revenue loss in its theme parks division.

Meanwhile, thousands of Disney World workers remain furloughed, and just last month, the company notified workers that those furloughs could last longer than originally anticipated.