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Whirlpool Corp. posted encouraging second-quarter earnings in what the CEO is referring to the "most difficult" quarter of the global pandemic. 

BENTON HARBOR — Whirlpool Corp. is asking salaried employees to take two weeks of unpaid leave as a proactive measure against the coronavirus pandemic.

The Benton Harbor appliance maker made the announcement Friday. Employees are to schedule a two-week furlough between April 13 and the end of May.

“With ongoing developments related to COVID-19, Whirlpool Corp. is focused on protecting the health and safety of all employees while continuing to serve the consumers who are depending on our products during this challenging time,” the company stated in a news release. “We continue to take proactive measures to mitigate the economic impact of this global pandemic.”

Whirlpool stated it will continue the full automatic contribution and the employer match for 401(k) plans. However, the company match will be made with Whirlpool common stock instead of cash.

The decision affects Whirlpool’s U.S.-based salaried employees.

“We believe these short-term actions will further enable our company, and our employees, to weather this storm and continue to serve our consumers as we have been doing for 108 years,” the company said in the release.

The decision comes after Whirlpool closed Iowa and Ohio manufacturing plants.

Whirlpool initially closed its Amana, Iowa facility on March 24 after an employee there tested positive for the coronavirus.

The company also closed a Findlay, Ohio plant on March 26 after it was believed at least one employee had tested positive for coronavirus. Both locations underwent a deep cleaning.

With 77,000 employees around the world – about 4,000 of which are based in Southwest Michigan – Whirlpool has added more workplace policies as the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States.

Starting in January, the company initiated travel bans, remote work policies, line distancing and enhanced cleaning of its facilities.

Whirlpool joined several other companies in withdrawing its 2020 earnings guidance, citing “unprecedented uncertainty” and concerns over disruptions related to coronavirus.

The company said in a March 24 statement that it expects demand and production disruptions to act as a drag on its 2020 financial performance.

Whirlpool stated the effects of the virus could exceed $25 million to $40 million earnings, before interest and taxes, in the first quarter. The appliance maker is expected to provide more information on the global impact of COVID-19 at its next earnings call, for May 1.

Contact: twittkowski@TheHP.com, 932-0358, Twitter: @TonyWittkowski