A Mississippi-based furniture company fired nearly 2,700 employees right before midnight on November 21, The Guardian reported. The company notified the employees about their termination in texts and emails and asked them not to come to work the next day. United Furniture Industries known for making budget-friendly sofas and recliners for Simmons Upholstery left thousands of people unemployed just two days before Thanksgiving.
According to the New York Post, the message sent to the employees by the company said, "At the instruction of the board of directors ... we regret to inform you that due to unforeseen business circumstances, the company has been forced to make the difficult decision to terminate the employment of all its employees, effective immediately, on Nov. 21."
"Your layoff from the company is expected to be permanent and all benefits will be terminated immediately without provision of Cobra," the employee received a follow-up email from the company.
The company also instructed its drivers to immediately "return equipment, inventory and delivery documents", regardless of "whether or not [they] have completed [their] delivery".
Unfortunately, the employees were not given any explanation for why they were laid off abruptly. The two-decade-old company dissolved its operations suddenly. New York Post reports say that over the summer, the company had fired its chief executive, chief financial officer and executive vice president of sales.
A UFI spokesperson told Freightwaves.com that workers were later told they could come to their workspaces to "gather their belongings."
A laid-off employee expressed his disappointment and told the portal, "It's not fair to the labourers who seriously worked so hard to be blindsided like this. It's not fair to the mom who just had a baby to wonder if she even has health insurance to cover it. It's not fair to the cancer patient in the midst of chemo about how to pay for her treatments."
A former employee also filed a lawsuit against the company. Toria Neal, a resident of Lee County, Mississippi, who worked for UFI for more than eight years, alleges in her proposed class-action complaint that the company violated the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act and did not provide at least 60 days written notice of a pending closure.
Langston & Lott, based in Booneville, Mississippi, filed the first-class action against United Furniture Industries, Inc., alleging it violated the WARN Act when terminating all 2,700 of its employees.
"Under the WARN Act, the employees of United Furniture were entitled to either a 60-day notice or 60 days of severance pay - neither of those was provided," Jack Simpson, attorney for Langston & Lott, told FreightWaves. "If appointed class counsel, we look forward to vigorously investigating the actions of United Furniture and seeking as much compensation the terminated employees are legally entitled to."