The sudden closing of furniture maker United Furniture Industries just before Thanksgiving is already getting messier.
United Furniture Industries sent members of its 2,700-member workforce notice of termination around 11 p.m. on Nov. 21 via text messages and email.
The sudden termination has resulted in multiple lawsuits being filed on behalf of employees. The lawsuits complain that the company did not give the 60-day notice required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act in the case of a mass termination.
United Furniture Industries Inc. is a Delaware corporation with headquarters in Tupelo, Miss.
The abrupt termination notice also affected the company’s truck drivers. According to the Federal Motor Safety Administration’s SAFER website, United Furniture Industries had 40 power units and 42 drivers.
Most employees were terminated immediately, according to a copy of an email delivered to employees published by Furniture World, without provision of COBRA (post-employment health insurance). Drivers on the road were given slightly different instructions:
“Over-the-road drivers that are out on delivery will be paid for the balance of the week. Whether or not you have completed your delivery, please immediately return equipment, inventory, and delivery documents for those deliveries that have been completed to one of the following locations: Winston-Salem, N.C., Verona, Miss., or Victorville, Calif. location. To be clear, do not complete any additional deliveries.”
Class action lawsuits
One of the WARN Act lawsuits was filed on behalf of employee Frances Denise Alomari, “on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated.”
The WARN Act requires employers to provide written notice at least 60 calendar days in advance of covered plant closings and mass layoffs. The WARN Act allows employees to seek pay and benefits for up to 60 days from the date of a mass termination.
Class action lawsuits also have been filed by Toria Neal and William Poe, reports the Winston-Salem Journal. Included among the defendants in Neal’s and Poe’s lawsuits are “John Does 1-10,” it reported.
Driver alleged to have taken furniture
One United Furniture driver has been accused of not following the company’s instructions and instead took furniture, according to Mississippi News Source. That driver was reported to have been arrested on suspicion of grand larceny.
Year of change for United Furniture
This has been a tumultuous year for the company, which marketed products as Lane Furniture.
In June 2022, the company terminate its CEO, chief financial officer and executive vice president of sales, Furniture World reported. It named Todd Evans as the new CEO, bumping him up from president of case goods and global sourcing, a role created for him in March 2021. He previously worked for Standard Furniture. United Furniture also restructured its sales organization.
A month later, United Furniture announced laying off 300 workers, Furniture World reported. It closed a metal stamping facility in High Point, N.C. It also turned a manufacturing plant in Armory, Miss., into a warehouse only. Its Winston-Salem, N.C., facility was morphed into a distribution center. LL
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