United Furniture Industries is being sued after laying off approximately 2,700 employees via emails and text messages.
The plaintiff – a former employee of eight years who court documents say is representing “potentially thousands” of others who were affected – is challenging the Mississippi-based company over what she claims is a violation of the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.
The WARN Act requires that, under certain conditions, employers give their workers 60 days’ notice before a plant closing or mass layoff.
“All businesses are encouraged to provide notice to the state Dislocated Worker Unit as quickly as possible. Some states also have plant closure laws, and those state laws may impose additional requirements,” the Labor Department notes on its website.
UNITED FURNITURE FIRES THOUSANDS BY TEXT DAYS BEFORE THANKSGIVING
In a statement to The Hill, Jack Simpson, the attorney advocating for the former employees, said they weren’t given that warning or 60 days of severance pay.
“I have spoken to a husband and wife who both lost their job at the same time, an individual who has stomach cancer and is worried about affording his medication, and another individual who has to decide between postponing a surgery or paying the medical expenses out of pocket. This is a tragic situation that is hard to understand,” he said.
Simpson told the outlet that, in addition to Toria Neal, more than 100 of the furniture company’s ex-employees have now hired his firm.
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The fired employees were told that the layoffs, due to “unforeseen business circumstances,” were expected to be permanent and that all benefits would be terminated “without provision of COBRA,” referring to the federal law that gives people who lose their jobs an option to keep their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage under some circumstances.
While many of those employees live in northeast Mississippi, layoffs also took place at North Carolina and California locations.
WFMY reported last week that it had found the company had not filed a WARN notice ahead of the layoffs in North Carolina.
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The station, citing the North Carolina Department of Commerce, highlighted that not every company must file a WARN, depending on the circumstances of their particular situation. Unforeseen business circumstances marks one of those exceptions.
FOX Business’ requests for comment from Simpson and United Furniture Industries were not returned.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.