Days before Thanksgiving, a Mississippi-based furniture company fired 2,700 workers across the country via text and email while many of them slept.
United Furniture Industries reportedly laid off almost all of its state workforce, as well as employees in North Carolina and California, and halted employee health care in a heartless farewell blow. After the mass layoffs, a company driver was arrested for allegedly stealing furniture and a truck.
The company now faces at least three federal lawsuits in the Northern District of Mississippi. Toria Neal, who has worked for the company since July 2014, filed a class-action lawsuit this week alleging United sacked all employees except “over-the-road drivers” shortly before midnight on November 21 in violation of federal law ” fire. She argues that United did not provide workers with a mandatory 60-day written notice. (Two other employees, Frances Alomari and Willie Poe, filed lawsuits making the same allegations against the company.)
The abrupt layoffs were a gut punch for longtime employees at United Furniture, which operates under the Lane Furniture brand.
Jimmy Herring, 24, told The Daily Beast that he was promoted to floor supervisor at a Lane plant in Trinity, North Carolina, a week or two before he was fired. Herring said that before he and his colleagues were fired, they made lounge chairs for Lowe’s retail stores.
But at 11:56 p.m. Monday, the company texted him while he was sleeping. He wouldn’t see the digital pink note for a day or two later.
Instead, the next morning, his boss texted him without much detail, announcing that they were out of work. At first, Herring assumed they would get a day off because of the upcoming holiday. Then he contacted his colleagues.
“They said we all quit,” said Herring, who was with the company for six years. “I thought it was a joke or something.”
He said his reaction was “complete panic”.
“I didn’t know what to do or where to start,” said Herring, whose girlfriend Chey is expecting a baby Dec. 8 with a baby bath.
Herring isn’t sure Lane’s paycheck from last Friday will be his last.
“Some people don’t even have cell phones,” adds Herring of colleagues. “They had to go to the factory and find that they no longer had a job.”
Several employees and their families took to Facebook to rant about the layoffs.
“Pathetic!! My brother, who is 64, was texted saying you are out of work!” wrote one North Carolina resident. “I hope these people endure the same treatment that my brother and the rest of these staff are now being subjected to, especially as the holidays begin!!!”
“Fantastic business ethics United/Lane,” wrote TJ Martin, an employee at a Tupelo, Mississippi, plant who also spoke to local news station WLBT. “We appreciate the termination messages on vacation and at 11:30 p.m. at night.”
“I have spoken to numerous colleagues,” added Martin, “and we all feel let down by a company that we have dedicated our time and energy to for years and love to do to provide for our families.”
commercial release furniture today released United’s message to employees.
“Upon direction of the board of directors of United Furniture Industries, Inc. and all of its subsidiaries (the “Company”), we regret to report 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 on November 21, 2022, excluding road drivers traveling on delivery,” the dismissal notice said. “Your dismissal from the Company is expected to be permanent and all benefits will be terminated immediately without the provision of COBRA.”
“We regret that this difficult and unexpected situation has made this necessary,” United continued, adding, “Thank you for your service and dedication.”
Last summer, the company fired its CEO, CFO and executive vice president of sales and laid off 300 employees. furniture today uncovered. The company then appointed Todd Evans as the new CEO. “Our industry is seeing a dramatic drop in consumer demand,” Evans said in July. “Our inventories remain high and new orders from our customers remain sluggish.”
United Furniture Industries has not yet commented on the layoffs.