Earth Fare work­ers sue for wages af­ter clo­sure

The News & Observer (Sunday) - - Triangle & N.c. - BY HAY­LEY FOWLER [email protected]­clatchy.com Hay­ley Fowler: 704-358-5414, @h_­fowl

It all hap­pened in quick suc­ces­sion.

North Carolina-based gro­cery store chain Earth Fare an­nounced Mon­day it was clos­ing all of its stores. The next day, it filed for bank­ruptcy in Delaware.

Now work­ers say the or­ganic gro­cer didn’t give its em­ploy­ees enough no­tice — and they’re owed wages.

Ac­cord­ing to a law­suit filed Wed­nes­day along­side Earth Fare’s Chap­ter 11 bank­ruptcy pro­ceed­ings, work­ers found out about the clos­ings and mass lay­offs at the same time as the pub­lic on Feb. 3.

“The de­fen­dants vi­o­lated the WARN Act by fail­ing to give the plain­tiffs and other sim­i­larly sit­u­ated em­ploy­ees of the de­fen­dants at least 60 days’ ad­vance writ­ten no­tice of ter­mi­na­tion, as re­quired by the WARN Act,” the com­plaint states.

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Earth Fare did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment from Mc­Clatchy News.

Un­der the WARN Act, em­ploy­ers are re­quired to give “ad­vance no­tice in cases of qual­i­fied plant clos­ings and mass lay­offs.”

Kelsi Cor­nett and Amy Hile — who worked at Earth Fare lo­ca­tions in John­son City, Ten­nessee, and St. Johns, Florida re­spec­tively — filed the com­plaint on be­half of a pro­posed class of 3,400 em­ploy­ees af­fected by the an­nounce­ment.

An at­tor­ney for the pair said the abrupt shut­down con­sti­tutes a “mass lay­off” and/or “plant clos­ing” as de­fined by the WARN Act.

“As a con­se­quence, the plain­tiffs and other sim­i­larly sit­u­ated em­ploy­ees of the De­fen­dants are en­ti­tled un­der the WARN Act to re­cover from the de­fen­dants their wages and ERISA ben­e­fits for 60 days, none of which has been paid,” ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

Em­ploy­ees are seek­ing all wages, salary, com­mis­sions, bonuses, ac­crued hol­i­day pay and ac­crued va­ca­tion as well as pen­sion and 401(k) con­tri­bu­tions and em­ployee ben­e­fits for at least 60 days start­ing from the date Earth Fare an­nounced its store clos­ings.

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