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Laid-Off Hertz Worker Sues Over Sudden Virus-Related Firings

May 1, 2020, 2:00 PM

Hertz Corp. violated a federal law requiring advance notice of mass layoffs when it abruptly fired hundreds of workers in April in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, a former employee alleges in a new lawsuit in federal court in Florida.

Hertz gave no advance written notice to Arlean Green, who worked at the Tampa International Airport, or to other would-be class members, according to the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Instead, the written notice was given April 14, the same day the employees were terminated, violating the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, Green alleges.

The WARN Act generally requires businesses that employ more than 100 workers to give them at least 60 days’ notice of plant closures or mass layoffs, unless they can prove they were caused by “unforeseen business circumstances” or natural disasters.

It’s unclear if the Covid-19 pandemic would automatically qualify as such an event under the WARN Act, but attorneys say thatemployers are still obligated to send out mass-layoff notices as soon as possible, even if they’re exempt.

Hertz had furloughed Green in March because of virus-related business losses, the complaint alleges. But furloughing employees for a few weeks, and then terminating their employment without any advance notice doesn’t meet the WARN Act’s advance written notice requirement, the suit says.

Hertz’s decision to opt for a mass layoff with no notice, in light of the millions of dollars in forgivable loans made available to Hertz and others through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, further underscores the severity of the WARN Act violations, the suit alleges.

The restaurant chain Hooters was hit with a similar lawsuit alleging WARN Act violations.

Cause of Action: WARN Act.

Relief: Wages, salary, commissions, bonuses, accrued pay for vacation and personal days for 60 days; pension, 401(k) contributions, health and medical insurance and other fringe benefits for 60 days; medical expenses incurred during the 60 day period following their respective terminations; attorneys’ fees and costs.

Potential Class Size: Unknown number of individuals in nationwide class.

Response: Hertz didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Attorneys: Justice for Justice LLC and Wenzel Fenton Cabassa PA represents the plaintiff.

The case is Green v. Hertz Corp., M.D. Fla., No. 8:20-cv-01006, complaint 4/30/20.

For additional legal resources, visit Bloomberg Law In Focus: Coronavirus (Bloomberg Law Subscription).

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Steinberg in Washington at jsteinberg@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com

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