A federal judge gave the okay on Monday for a class action suit to move forward against an Indiana contract glazing company that suddenly shut down a production facility nearly two years ago and allegedly laid off close to 300 workers without prior notice.
Judge Sara Evans Barker of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District Court of Indiana rejected claims by ASI Ltd. of Whitestown, Ind., that most of the plant’s employees did not fall under guidelines of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act of 1988 that mandates employers with 100 or more full-time employees give workers 60 days’ notice before a plant closing or mass layoff.
“The legal claim of each employee who was terminated without notice on December 22, 2011 is identical,” Barker wrote, “and the circumstances of each member derive from a ‘common nucleus of operative fact’ even if the dollar amounts attached to their claims will differ.”
Originally filed in February 2012, Andrew Shepherd’s legal action on behalf of the 273 listed former employees contends that ASI failed to do that when it suddenly shuttered the doors at its manufacturing facility in Whitestown on December 22, 2011, and laid off all of the plant’s employees, including Shepherd.
Shepherd is seeking unpaid wages, salary, commissions, bonuses, accrued holiday pay, accrued vacation pay pension and 401(k) contributions and other benefits he alleges would have been covered and paid under the “then-applicable employee benefit plans had that coverage continued for that period, for 60 working days following the member employee’s termination,” according to court records.
Shepherd, who is represented by Mobile, Ala.-based attorney David C. Tufts, also is asking for attorneys’ fees and a trial by jury. Tufts could not be reached for comment.
ASI, which is listed as defendant in the case along with Winston Development LLC and S&S Racing LLC, the two companies that shared the facility, has never disputed that plant workers were terminated without notice, according to court documents. The company, however, had objected to Shepherd’s number of employees affected, contending that many of the employees were not eligible under the WARN Act because many – but not all – had been re-hired by the Ohio Farmers’ Insurance Company that had purchased ASI’s assets from PNC Bank before reconstituting the plant. Those re-hired employees would not have suffered “employment loss,” argued ASI’s Indianapolis-based attorney John K. McDavid.
ASI had also contended that part-time employees and those who worked offsite and did not “work at or report to the ASI facility” were also not covered by the federal law, according to court documents.
McDavid declined comment on the case when reached at his office on Tuesday morning.