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United Furniture sued after firing 2,700 workers while they slept: "Stress and despair"

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United Furniture is facing a lawsuit from its employees after it fired 2,700 workers before Thanksgiving via email and text messages sent during the "middle of the night."

The lawsuit claims United Furniture violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, a federal law that requires employers provide a written notice to workers 60 days before a mass layoff or plant closing. The job cuts represent the furniture maker's entire workforce, most of which lives in Mississippi, according to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

United Furniture, which made home furnishings under the Lane Home Furnishings brand, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The lawsuit is seeking "the maximum amount allowed for a violation of the WARN Act," which is 60 days of back pay and the benefits that each worker was entitled to under their benefit plans, Jack Simpson, an attorney for the employees, told CBS MoneyWatch in an email. Simpson said he hasn't received a response from United Furniture, and added that it is not clear why the company cut its workforce. 

"Just two days shy of Thanksgiving"

"The firings are tragic. Not only were the employees fired in the middle of the night via an email or text message, but the firings occurred just two days shy of Thanksgiving," Simpson said in the email. 

He added, "A time period that is intended for thanksgiving with friends, family and loved ones became a period of heartache, stress and despair solely because United Furniture lacked the decency to provide its employees any notice."

The class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of Toria Neal and other workers, with Neal having worked at United Furniture from July 2014 through November 21, 2022.

The company's board of directors sent the termination email at 12:42 a.m. on Tuesday, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. The email said that all workers were fired, effective immediately, and blamed "unforeseen business circumstances," the newspaper added. 

As the economy slows, some companies are cutting staff to trim costs, although many layoffs have been focused in the tech sector. Amazon, Meta and Twitter are among the tech giants that have recently announced thousands of job cuts. 

Out for deliveries

Some employees were sound asleep when the emails hit their inboxes. Others never saw the emails before heading to work. Company drivers who were out making deliveries were told to return to a United Furniture location immediately to turn in their trucks.

Meanwhile, some other furniture companies are reaching out to the workers who lost their jobs with United Furniture, while officials in Mississippi are organizing job fairs for the fired workers, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

DARRAN Furniture wrote on its Facebook page that it is reaching out to laid-off workers. 

"We are saddened by the news of United Furniture and for all the employees affected by their closing," it wrote. "To all United Furniture craftsmen and women — we would love for you to become a part of DARRAN Furniture's growing family."

With reporting by the Associated Press.

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