For many Americans, Thanksgiving week is full of food, football and family time. But for a group of workers in Mississippi, a would-be relaxing long weekend was disrupted by a text from their employer two days before the holiday.
According to FreightWaves, some 2,700 employees of United Furniture Industries were alerted abruptly – most by email or text – that they were being terminated by their employer, effective immediately.
In a memo later reviewed by the New York Post, the company said that “due to unforeseen business circumstances” it would be forced to terminate “all of its employees.”
And while the decision was swift, the backlash was swifter. Within days, stunned employees filed a class action lawsuit, contending that the company had violated the WARN Act by not providing adequate written notice of the mass firings at least 60 days prior.
If this measure of notice were not possible, the workers are said to be owed 60 days of severance pay. Instead, UFI reportedly noted in its correspondence with the workers that all employment and benefits would be immediately terminated, with no provision from Cobra.
Other company workers have endured layoffs so far this year, with 270 workers losing their jobs after plant closures in North Carolina and 220 at another facility in Mississippi. Despite what might, in hindsight, look like writing on the wall, the company’s day to day workforce didn’t see it that way.
Said one worker quoted by FreightWaves, “...leadership had been working extremely hard to put new processes in place…There was too much effort being put in for anyone to really know they would close overnight.”