Miramar-based Univita Health and its subsidiaries have filed notice that the companies will lay off approximately 1,000 employees by Aug. 12. But a class action complaint filed Sunday says the employees weren’t given the required 60-day notice and it seeks to recoup wages, benefits, and paid time off for the workers.
“These employees were reeling from this. They lost their PTO and also their health insurance as of July 31,” said René Roupinian, an attorney with New York-based Outten & Golden LLP, the firm handling the case on behalf of the employees. “In some ways, the loss of health insurance is more devastating than that of the future pay check.”
The situation at Univita took a dire turn on July 28 when the home health care company abruptly lost all of its Florida HMO contracts. Employees were told that day they would be terminated. Typically, employees in mass-layoffs are required to receive 60 days termination notice by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.
The lead plaintiff in the complaint . . .was an employee at the company’s Miramar facility.
Outten & Golden had been following Univita’s case, and were contacted by several people about the situation over the last week, said Jack Raisner, an attorney with the firm.
“It turns out that the employees are fairly cohesive in this case, which is a feature of some of these cases. Employees sort of band together,” Raisner said. “It’s better to have a solid group that is interested in the outcome and a persuasive reason for trying to settle these cases.”
Raisner and Roupinian believe Univita is heading towards bankruptcy. “It appears inevitable,” Raisner said. In that case, Univita’s employees will have a priority claim in bankruptcy court after secured creditors.
Univita could have had many reasons for terminating employees without 60 days’ notice, some of which would make the layoffs an exception to the WARN requirements ****.
There are a couple reasons a company may terminate without the required notice, such as if the company was faltering and seeking a capital investment to stay afloat, a 60-day termination notice could have hurt chances of raising capital. Another instance is that unforeseen business circumstances could have caused the mass layoffs ****. The other is a natural disaster ****. ****
Univita would have to make the case that its terminations were an exception to the typical WARN requirements to avoid penalties.
Univita did not return a request for comment.