PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Minnie Frye and her husband David both moved from California for two jobs at Digital Domain Media Group. She was an accountant, and he worked in information technology for two years.
"I really believed in the company, and they failed me," she said.
Then came the abrupt shutdown of the company's Port St. Lucie studio Friday, September 7, followed by a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing on Tuesday, September 11. Now Frye is fighting back, citing a labor law protective act.
According to Frye's lawyer, Jack Raisner with Outten & Golden LLP, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act protects employees.
"The WARN Act says that an employer cannot conduct a mass layoff or a plant shutdown without first giving all of the employees 60 days of advance written notice," said Raisner. "In this case, the employer shut down without giving employees any advance notice, so under the WARN Act, the employees are due 60 days wages and benefits, because they were not given the proper notice."
Frye said when she was notified of the terminations, the WARN Act was the first thing she thought of. But she said she originally kept her question to herself because she was in a large group of fellow Digital Domain employees who were, she said, extremely upset by the unexpected announcement.
"When we were all gathered together and the new COO said we were not getting severance, immediately in my head, 'Why don't I ask about the WARN Act?' I didn't, because the anger in the room was already at such a high level, I was actually worried about physical violence happening if anybody brought anything else up at that time," she explained. "I was more concerned about personal safety for everyone there because we were very closely knit together and I didn't want anyone to catch on to something and just get so angry that a violent situation could happen. So I kept it to myself, I waited until we had all broken apart in our individual groups. Then I asked, 'What about the WARN Act?'"
"They quickly said that there were certain provisions in the WARN Act that meant we didn't meet for this circumstance, and that they weren't going to adhere to it," said Frye. "So I left it at that, and started to find a lawyer."
Raisner said if she wins the case, every Digital Domain employee who was laid off will be awarded compensation, as well as Frye.
"The class representative in this case seeks to represent all 300 or so employees in the case," said Raisner. "If we were successful, she would bring with her the entire group of 300 employees who would have a remedy against this employer."
"The next step is that the bankruptcy debtor is going to have to answer the complaint, and then we will seek to certify the action so that we are able to bring everyone's claim together as one," continued Raisner. "We will address the claims in the course of the bankruptcy case and seek to establish our priority over other creditors, so that we are one of the first in line when a distribution is given to the creditors under a Chapter 11 plan, which is the objective of a bankruptcy proceeding such as this."
Frye said she hopes to help herself and others regain their financial footing, at least temporarily, by seeking 60 days pay and benefits.
"For everyone who ever finds themselves in this situation, that the law will step in and say, you did wrong by these people," Frye said. "It was devastating to find out that this is it."
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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