You Snooze, You Lose: US Furniture Firm Culls Staff Overnight
A Mississippi-based company which manufactures predominantly mid-priced upholstered furniture in the US reportedly cited a “difficult and unexpected situation” possibly linked to high gas prices and inflation as key factors in its decision.
A large privately-held US furniture company carried out a gigantic staff cull while its workforce was sleeping, literally informing them of the layoffs the following morning, on November 21.
All 2,700 employees of United Furniture Industries (UFI), based in Okolona, Mississippi and which produces sofas and recliners for Simmons Upholstery, awoke two days before Thanksgiving to the following emailed texts:
“At the instruction of the board of directors … we regret to inform you that due to unforeseen business circumstances, the company has been forced to make the difficult decision to terminate the employment of all its employees, effective immediately, on Nov. 21.”
The company, which has been around for decades, added in its emails, cited by US media outlets, that the layoff was permanent, warning employees that all benefits were being terminated "immediately without provision of COBRA.” COBRA, standing for "Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act," is a 1985 federal law giving people the opportunity to continue their health insurance coverage for a limited amount of time in the event of a job loss or other qualifying event.
© Photo : TwitterTwitter screenshot of text reportedly sent by United Furniture Industries to laid off staff.
Twitter screenshot of text reportedly sent by United Furniture Industries to laid off staff.
© Photo : Twitter
The immediate layoff did not apply to drivers that were out on delivery, and were told in the memo that they would be paid for the balance of the week.
"Whether or not you have completed your delivery, please immediately return equipment, inventory, and delivery documents for those deliveries that have been completed to one of the following locations: Winston-Salem, NC, Verona, MS, or Victorville, CA location. To be clear, do not complete any additional deliveries," UFI said in its memo.
The “difficult and unexpected situation” that was cited in the layoff message is believed to refer to the soaring gas prices and inflation that have roiled many businesses.
One of the blindsided staff members - Toria Neal, a resident of Lee County, Mississippi - has filed a class-action lawsuit. According to the former employee, the firm violated the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act by not offering at least 60 days’ written notice of the layoff.
The manufacturing company had already shut down several of its facilities in Winston-Salem and High Point, North Carolina back in July. That move left over 270 workers without jobs. A similar move followed later in the month, affecting 220 jobs at the company’s plant in Amory, Mississippi.
26 November 2022, 04:11 GMT