A large US furniture company fired all 2,700 of its employees this week while they were asleep, telling them in texts and emails not to come to work the next day.

United Furniture Industries, which makes low-cost sofas and recliners for Simmons Upholstery, laid off thousands of workers on Tuesday, including truck drivers and factory workers in North Carolina, Mississippi, and California, just two days before Thanksgiving.

On Monday, November 21, just before midnight, thousands of workers, many of whom were sleeping, received a text message from United Furniture Industries (UFI) informing them that they had been effectively laid off and were no longer permitted to return to work.

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A message seen by the New York Post said: “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.”

A follow-up email said: “Your layoff from the company is expected to be permanent and all benefits will be terminated immediately without provision of Cobra.”

This refers to a federal law that gives employees who lose their jobs the option to keep their employer-sponsored health insurance under certain circumstances.

The company also instructed its drivers to immediately “return equipment, inventory and delivery documents”, regardless of “whether or not [they] have completed [their] delivery”.

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Employees were given no explanation for their abrupt termination.

FreightWaves reviewed an update from UFI on Tuesday regarding the retrieval of their belongings.

The email said: “As soon as the property manager can provide a safe and orderly process for former employees to come and gather their belongings, they will do so … We are not certain of the timeframe for this but will communicate proactively.”

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One employee told FreightWaves: “It’s not fair to the laborers who seriously worked so hard to be blindsided like this. It’s not fair to the mom who just had a baby to wonder if she even has health insurance to cover it. It’s not fair to the cancer patient in the midst of chemo about how to pay for her treatments.”

Another employee, TJ Martin, told the TV station WLBT: “This has been a drastic shock to every one of us … That puts a damper on everybody’s spirits, especially when you’re told to be ready to hit it hard Monday. Every one of us is dedicated to the company. We consider each other to be family members.”

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Toria Neal, a former employee, filed a lawsuit against the company on Wednesday, November 23 claiming that it violated the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act by failing to provide at least 60 days’ notice of its shutdown.

Source: The Guardian

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