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No WARNing Ex-Workers Sue Bill Heard Enterprises

October 2, 2008
Related Topics: Ethics, Wages and Hours, Workforce Planning, Latest News
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Former employees of Bill Heard Enterprises Inc. have filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that they did not receive notice before losing their jobs when Heard car dealerships closed.

Two employees of the Bill Heard store in Huntsville, Alabama, filed the suit, which seeks class-action status, in the Northern Alabama U.S. District Court. They filed it Thursday, September 25, one day after the world’s top-selling Chevrolet dealer group closed its 13 remaining stores.

The suit seeks to encompass all employees who lost their jobs this month but did not receive notice or compensation. Under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, qualifying employees must receive 60 days’ notice before the closing of their workplace. Under WARN, a company does not have to give employees notice of their termination if it “could not reasonably foresee business circumstances” that led to the closing, according to an explanation of the law in a government brochure.

The employees seek back pay for the 60 days that Heard should have paid them after notifying the workers that the company was closing its stores. They also seek reimbursement of legal fees.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sunday, September 28.

At the first bankruptcy hearing a day later in a courtroom in Decatur, Alabama, Judge Jack Caddell asked whether the company would face any WARN-related legal trouble. A lawyer for the company vigorously denied that it faced any such liability.

Filed by Chrissie Thompson of Automotive News, a sister publication of Workforce Management. April Wortham of Automotive News contributed to this report. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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