Lawsuit alleges United Furniture Industries violated federal labor law

Booneville based attorney Casey Lott filed the lawsuit one day after 2,700 employees were terminated

TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) – A Northeast Mississippi attorney has filed a lawsuit against United Furniture Industries, claiming the company violated federal labor law when it fired all of its workers last week.

“We have one client who is a cancer patient who now can’t pay for her cancer medication because her health insurance has been terminated, and United isn’t offering its employees COBRA coverage,” said Attorney Casey Lott.

That is just one story Lott said his firm has heard about from former employees of United Furniture Industries.

Within a day after United Furniture Industries employees were notified, by text or email that they no longer had jobs, Lott, of Booneville-based Langston and Lott, sued the furniture maker, alleging violation of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, also known as the WARN Act.

“The WARN act applies to employers who employ more than one hundred employees and United well exceeds that threshold.  The WARN Act requires large employers to give at least 60 days notice of their intent to initiate a mass layoff,” Lott said.

Lott says his firm is getting 50 to 75 calls a day from former UFI employees asking about their legal options. The lawsuit has been filed in the US District Court of North Mississippi.

He also said the court has been asked to certify the case as a class action lawsuit. If that happens, the lawsuit would proceed on behalf of all 2,700 former employees.

“If the case is not certified as a class action, then each individual employee would have to assert their legal rights to protect their legal interest.  Now, we’re fielding a lot of calls from affected employees, we’re agreeing to represent all of them,” he said.

While Lott said there are a lot of unknowns and variables in the case going forward, Lott says he is surprised the company undertook the mass terminations, apparently without regard for the WARN Act.

“We were shocked by how mismanaged this layoff was and they are required to give 60 days notice, they didn’t do that, but they did send out a notice, with a letter dated November 21 that they didn’t postmark until November 23rd, that said they were providing employees with a notice under the WARN act, by that time they had been terminated,” Lott said.

Langston and Lott are taking the cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning they are not charging clients any upfront fees.

Two more lawsuits were filed by other firms after Langston and Lott’s initial lawsuit. Attempts to reach UFI corporate officials or legal counsel was not successful.

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