A class action alleges J.E. Berkowitz, LP; Consolidated Glass Holdings, Inc. and parent co. Czech Asset Management, L.P. failed to provide workers at their NJ glassmaking facility with proper notice before a mass layoff.
A proposed class action alleges J.E. Berkowitz, LP; Consolidated Glass Holdings, Inc. and parent company Czech Asset Management, L.P. failed to provide workers at their Pendricktown, New Jersey glassmaking facility with proper notice before their employment was suspended and ultimately terminated.
The 13-page lawsuit alleges the defendants failed to provide at least 100 full-time employees with at least 60 days’ notice before ostensibly shutting down the Pendricktown facility temporarily on February 2, 2021, and then permanently closing up shop a little more than a month later, as required by the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act and New Jersey's Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act.
Per the case, the defendants should reasonably have seen coming the permanent closure of the Pendricktown facility and provided workers with advance notice prior to the mass layoff.
“Defendants could have, but failed to, evaluate the impact of business circumstances prior to February 2021 to provide notice to its employees prior to the mass layoff,” the lawsuit claims. “The March 5, 2021 announcement caused at least 100 employees working for Defendants to be immediately terminated without cause.”
The suit further alleges the defendants owe Pendricktown workers unpaid wages and benefits related to the temporary and then permanent closure of the facility. According to the complaint, the defendants had no intention of ever reopening the Pendricktown facility once employees were furloughed without advance notice in February 2021 before they were informed in early March that the facility would be closed permanently.
Per the lawsuit, glass manufacturer J.E. Berkowitz began operations in or around 1920 and was bought by Consolidated Glass Holdings around 2016. From roughly 2016 to around 2018, the suit says, Consolidated Glass Holdings owned and operated eight locations, including the Pendricktown facility that became the company’s headquarters around 2019, as J.E. Berkowitz.
Following New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s declaration of a public health emergency in the state due to the coronavirus in early March 2020, Consolidated Glass Holdings and J.E. Berkowitz kept their Pendricktown facility open through June, the lawsuit says. That month, however, Consolidated was acquired by co-defendant Czech Asset Management, who received and reviewed operational data related to Consolidated Glass’ facilities and provided corresponding operational directives, according to the case.
In or around January 2021, Czech Asset Management and Consolidated Glass Holdings provided employees at their South Easton, Massachusetts facility, operating under the name Solar Seal, with a notice of facility closure, the lawsuit says. According to the case, this event made it “reasonably foreseeable” to the defendants in January/February 2021 that “business circumstances would require the closure of the Pendricktown Facility,” which occurred on February 2.
On that date, the defendants advised every employee at the Pendricktown facility that they were being placed on immediate furlough for a period of at least 60 days, the complaint says. Per the suit, the defendants closed down the Pendricktown facility at this time “because its business had been suffering for a long period of at least six months prior to same.”
The lawsuit alleges employees at the Pendricktown facility received neither advanced notice that operations would cease nor wages during the announced furlough period. According to the suit, the defendants, at the time the furlough was announced, “did not have a legitimate intention to reopen the facility in 60 days.”
From the complaint:
“At the time it furloughed Named Plaintiffs and Class Plaintiffs, Defendants were not actively seeking new capital for the purpose of reopening the Pendricktown Facility.
At the time it furloughed Named Plaintiffs and Class Plaintiffs, Defendants were not actively seeking new business for the purpose of reopening the Pendricktown Facility.
On March 5, 2021, Defendants notified the employees at the Pendricktown Facility that it would be permanently closing same.”
The defendants violated the WARN Act’s advance notice requirements in that the shutdown of the Pendricktown facility resulted in a permanent loss of employment for at least 50 or more workers, the case claims.
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