Fanatics, Inc. and Fanatics Retail Group Fulfillment, LLC failed to provide employees with mandatory 60 days’ advance written notice before the Jacksonville-based licensed sportswear retailer implemented a large-scale layoff late last month, a proposed class action alleges.
The plaintiff, a nearly 16-year Fanatics employee who was furloughed in March along with more than 100 other employees, alleges the defendants knew as early as late March that a mass layoff was “reasonably foreseeable” yet failed to provide employees proper notice of such as required under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. Instead, Fanatics, through various email communications, led furloughed workers to believe for months amid the pandemic that they would soon return to work, the case says.
“This, in turn, caused the Named Plaintiff not to seek other employment as she erroneously assumed she would be brought back to work,” the 13-page suit says. “The same is true for other putative class members.”
The lawsuit contests that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the defendants were still mandated by law to provide employees with “as much notice as is practicable” before the reasonably foreseeable mass layoff. Moreover, Fanatics, the suit alleges, “could have but failed to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 upon its employees in the critical months and weeks leading up to the mass layoffs,” opting to terminate employees despite Congress making available millions in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program small business loans.
Per the case, more than 100 Fanatics employees were given only four days’ advance written notice before being terminated.
According to the complaint, Fanatics employees received from March 20 to August 24 multiple emails and phone calls from the defendants, who indicated furloughed workers would soon come back. That did not happen, however, and workers were told in writing on August 24 that they would be terminated effective four days later, the case states.
Further, the termination notice disseminated by Fanatics’ human resources department fell short of WARN Act requirements in that it failed to note the name and address of the employment site where the plant closing or mass layoff would occur and left out an official company phone number to contact for more information, the lawsuit says. The defendants additionally provided terminated workers with no statement as to whether the planned termination was expected to be permanent or temporary and if the entire job site was to be closed, the suit claims.
The lawsuit looks to recover back pay and benefits for proposed class members, i.e. those who worked for Fanatics and were terminated without cause on or around August 24, 2020.
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