Labor & Employment Law Daily Enterprise facing class action alleging no WARN notice before layoffs prompted by COVID-19
Friday, June 12, 2020

Enterprise facing class action alleging no WARN notice before layoffs prompted by COVID-19

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

The plaintiff contends that Enterprise had furloughed her in Mid-March because of COVID-19, and thus knew its business was suffering and that a mass layoff was coming.

A former Enterprise car rental agent who worked at its Orlando, Florida, airport facility has filed a class action lawsuit against Enterprise Holdings, Inc., and two affiliates (collectively, Enterprise), seeking damages on behalf of hundreds of other similarly situated former employees for 60 days’ compensation and benefits due to Enterprise’s violation of their rights under the federal WARN Act. The employer could have predicted the mass layoffs given COVID-19 pandemic developments, according to the plaintiff.

Terminated before WARN notice. According to the complaint, the plaintiff and other class members were terminated without cause on their part on around April 27, 2020, as part of or as the reasonably expected consequence of a mass layoff or plant closing that was effectuated by Enterprise on or about that date. Not only did Enterprise fail to give advance written notice of termination, or fail to “give as much notice as practicable,” as required under the WARN Act, it gave no notice, sending the required written notice on April 27, although the letter was dated April 24, both of which dates were several days after the mass layoff, according to the plaintiff.

Enterprise allegedly violated the WARN Act by failing to provide as much written notice as practicable under the circumstance surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. It also purportedly failed to provide a statement on basis for its reduction of the required notification period to “zero days advance notice.”

Coronavirus handwriting on the wall. The plaintiff contends that Enterprise could have but neglected to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on its employees prior to the mass layoff. Specifically, Enterprise had furloughed the plaintiff in mid-March because of the coronavirus emergency, meaning that it knew its business was suffering and, therefore, knew that a mass layoff was coming, the complaint suggests.

“But, furloughing employees for a few weeks, and then terminating their employment without any advance written notice is not a substitute for—and certainly does not comply with—the WARN Act’s advance written notice requirement,” the plaintiff argues.

And there was the PPP, too. The fact that Congress had recently made available to Enterprise and many other businesses millions of dollars in forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, but Enterprise opted instead to engage in a mass layoff without any advance written notice to its employees, only further underscores the severity of its WARN Act violations, according to the complaint.

Recovery of 60 days’ compensation. Enterprise’s failure to provide its employees with any advance written notice allegedly had a devastating economic impact on the plaintiff and the putative class members. As a result, the plaintiff contends that she and the putative class members are entitled under the WARN Act to recover from Enterprise their respective compensation and benefits for 60 days, no part of which has been paid.

Specifically, the plaintiff is asking the court to award her and each of the putative class members an amount equal to the sum of:

  • Their respective wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, and accrued pay for vacation and personal days for workdays in the 60 calendar days prior to their respective terminations, and fringe benefits for 60 calendar days prior to their respective terminations; and
  • Their medical expenses incurred during the 60-day period following their respective terminations that would have been covered and paid under Enterprise’s health insurance plan had that plan provided coverage during that period.

The plaintiff filed her lawsuit in the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division; the case is No. 6:20-cv-00891.

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