Bankrupt Solar Panel Installer Hit With WARN Suit

Law360—Rick Archer
February 7, 2018

A pair of ex-employees of bankrupt solar panel installer Level Solar Inc. on Wednesday took their claims that the company laid off them and hundreds of other workers without notice to New York bankruptcy court, filing an adversary claim alleging the company broke state labor law.

Daniel Hiergesell and Dennise Flores said in their adversary putative class action complaint that Level Solar gave no advance notice of a September mass layoff of 200 workers at its New York facilities, in violation of the state’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

“Under the NY WARN Act, defendant was required to provide at least 90 days’ advance written notice of their terminations. As a consequence of defendant’s failure to give such notice, plaintiffs and other similarly situated employees of defendant are entitled to statutory remedies,” the complaint said.

New York City-based Level Solar declared bankruptcy on Dec. 1, amid facing a proposed class action in state court filed by Hiergesell and Flores for allegedly firing approximately 200 employees on Sept. 19 without advance notice. The solar panel supplier, with facilities across the boroughs of New York and in Long Island, valued its assets somewhere in the range of $50 million to $100 million, and its liabilities between $1 million and $10 million.

According to Wednesday’s complaint, Hiergesell was a sales consultant and Flores a customer service specialist employed by Level Solar in two of its New York offices at the time of the layoffs.

The pair claimed the layoffs violated the 90-day notice requirement in the state WARN Act, and that as a result they and the other former workers were entitled to statutory damages equal to 60 days’ pay and retirement benefits.

In a response filed in the state court litigation, the company said it was entitled to be excused from the advance notice requirement, saying the layoffs “were the result of an unforeseen emergency based on the neglect of the former CEO,” who allegedly failed to pay workers’ compensation insurance premiums when they were due, which led to the cancellation of the insurance and the state’s subsequent refusal to reinstitute the plan.

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The former workers are represented by Rene S. Roupinian and Jack A. Raisner of Outten & Golden LLP.

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The adversary case is Daniel Corey Hiergesell et al. v. Level Solar Inc., case number 18-01012, and the bankruptcy case is In re: Level Solar Inc., case number 1:17-bk-13469, both in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.