A Mississippi-based furniture company abruptly fired nearly 27,000 workers in the United States just days before Thanksgiving, according to multiple reports.
Just before midnight on November 21, thousands of workers – many of whom were asleep – received a text message from United Furniture Industries (UFI) saying they were effectively terminated and could no longer return to work.
“At the direction 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 of its employees, effective immediately,”[ads1]; the message, as New York Post reported, said.
“The layoff from the company is expected to be permanent and all benefits will be terminated immediately without providing Cobra,” a follow-up email from the company said, referring to a federal law that gives employees who lose their jobs the opportunity to keep their employer-sponsored health insurance under certain circumstances.
The company also instructed drivers to immediately “return equipment, inventory and delivery documents,” regardless of “whether or not [they] have completed [their] delivery”.
Employees were given no explanation as to why they were dismissed so suddenly. On Tuesday, UFI issued an update regarding the retrieval of their assets, which FreightWaves reviewed.
“As soon as the property manager can provide a safe and orderly process for former employees to come and collect their belongings, they will do so … We are not sure of the time frame for this, but will communicate proactively,” the email said the mail.
In response, many employees expressed shock and frustration at their abrupt firing.
One employee told FreightWaves: “It’s not fair to the workers who seriously worked so hard to be blindsided like this. It’s not fair for the mother who just had a baby to wonder if she even has health insurance that covers it. It is not fair to the cancer patient in the middle of chemotherapy about how they are going to pay for her treatments.”
Another employee, TJ Martin, told WLBT, “This has been a drastic shock to every one of us … It puts a damper on everybody’s spirits, especially when you’re told to be ready to hit hard on Monday . Each one of us is dedicated to the company. We consider each other family members.”
On Wednesday, former employee Toria Neal filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging it violated the federal Job Readjustment and Retraining Act by failing to provide at least 60 days’ notice of the closing.