A former employee of family-run turkey processor Zacky Farms has filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming the company failed to give workers the required notice of layoffs prior to announcing it was closing.
Meanwhile, Zacky officials have said they tried to provide the workers as much notice as possible before deciding to shut down two weeks ago.
News of the lawsuit comes amid an announcement Wednesday the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
In the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Fresno, laid off employee Karen Vance said the company violated the California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act., also known as WARN. The act requires that companies issuing a mass layoff or are closing must provide employees 60 days advance notice of their terminations.
Vance’s lawyer, Jahan Sagafi of Outten & Golden, in San Francisco is asking a federal judge to certify the lawsuit as a class-action, allowing the employment law firm to represent the other employees as a single class.
The lawsuit also alleges that Zacky failed to pay Vance and other workers: “their respective wages, salary, commissions, bonuses, accrued holiday pay and accrued vacation for 60 days following their respective terminations and failed to make the pension and 401k contributions and provide employee benefits under ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) other than health insurance for 60 days from and after the dates of their respective terminations.”
Zacky officials, in their Oct. 26 letter to state and local officials, said they couldn’t give workers advance notice because it might jeopardize their ability to secure financing. As a result, the company is seeking an exemption to the WARN Act requirement.
“Please take notice that Zacky is attempting to provide as much notice as possible,” the letter stated.
“In the preceding months, Zacky has been actively seeking capital which, if obtained, would have enabled Zacky to avoid or postpone the closure of the Zacky plants and Zacky’s management reasonably and in good faith believed that giving notice while these efforts were ongoing would have precluded Zacky from obtaining the requisite capital to avoid the closures.”
Information from the state’s Employment Development Department indicates that even as Zacky Farms said it was seeking an exemption from complying with the WARN Act, the company did file WARN notices for 323 workers in Fresno and 142 employees in Stockton.
According to the state, both notices were dated Oct. 26 and effective that same day. The EDD reports that both notices were received by the agency on Oct. 31.