Two previous employees of Predricktown, N.J.-based J.E. Berkowitz (JEB) filed a class-action lawsuit against the company and parent companies, Consolidated Glass Holdings (CGH) and Czech Asset Management (CAM), claiming a violation of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) and the New Jersey Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act (New Jersey WARN Act). The complaint comes following CGH’s announcement of employee furloughs in February.
The purpose of the WARN Act is to ensure advanced notice in cases of qualified plant closings and mass layoffs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The New Jersey WARN Act states that employees have certain rights and employers have certain obligations to give proper notice to their employees and others before taking certain employment actions, including mass layoffs and termination of operations.
The complaint was filed by former JEB employees, Glen Wojnar and Barry Blumenfeld. The two are listed as the plaintiffs in the suit individually and on behalf of their full-time coworkers at the Pedricktown, N.J., facility where employment was suspended and then terminated as a result of the facility closing. The number of employees affected is estimated to be more than 100 individuals, according to the complaint, which notes that plaintiffs suffered a loss of employment without notice, violating both WARN acts.
The allegations against JEB, CGH and CAM include a failure to provide employees with 60-day notices of temporary closures on February 2 and of permanent closures on March 5. Additionally, the documents state that the companies failed to pay employees severance pay and/or benefits following the closures.
While the announcement issued by CGH in February pointed to the Coronavirus pandemic as reason for the closure, the complaint notes that “on or about March 9, 2020, New Jersey Governor Philip Murphy, declared a public health emergency in the state of New Jersey due to the Coronavirus disease … following the declaration of the emergency, Defendant CGH and Defendant JEB did not close the Pedricktown Facility for any period of time from March 2020 through June 2020.”
The complaint alleges that after CAM acquired CGH in June 2020, “… pursuant to the operational agreement between Defendant CGH and Defendant CAM, Defendant CAM received and reviewed operational data related to Defendant CGH’s facilities, including the Pedricktown Facility. Upon information and belief, Defendant CAM provided operational directives to Defendant CGH with regard to its facilities, including the Pedricktown Facility. In or around January 2021, Defendant CAM and Defendant CGH provided a notice of facility closure to employees [at] its South Easton, Massachusetts facility, operating under the name of Solar Seal.”
According to the complaint, around the time of the Massachusetts facility’s closure, it was reasonably foreseeable to CAM and CGH that circumstances would also require the closure of the Pedricktown facility. The complaint says that business had been suffering for at least six months, which led to the facility’s closure on February 2, when all employees were furloughed for at least 60 days. Employees were not given advanced notice of the cease of operations or payment for any period of time, according to the complaint.
On March 5, 2021, employees were notified that the Pedricktown facility would be permanently closing, according to the complaint. This caused at least 100 employees to be immediately terminated without cause.
On behalf of their coworkers and as individuals, Wojnar and Blumenfeld filed the claim in hopes of being provided, “A money judgment in favor of Named Plaintiffs and Class Plaintiffs equal to the sum of all unpaid wages due in accordance with the WARN Act and/or New Jersey WARN Act; Named Plaintiffs and Class Plaintiffs are to be awarded the costs and expenses of this action and reasonable legal fees as provided under applicable law; Named Plaintiffs and Class Plaintiffs are to be awarded any and all other equitable and legal relief as the Court deems appropriate; and Named Plaintiffs and Class Plaintiffs’ claims are to receive a trial by jury.”
This story is developing. Stay tuned to USGNN™ for updates as they are made available.