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Law Firm Investigating Archway Closing: Company May Have Violated Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act

Ashland Times-Gazette.com - Ginger Christ

Less than a week after Archway and Mother's Cookie Company filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, putting 274 full- and part-time employees and about 100 temporary employees out of work, the plant's closing has attracted national attention.

One national law firm is investigating whether Archway acted in violation of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires companies give employees 60 days notice before a plant closing.

New York-based Outten & Golden LLP sent letters to a number of former Archway employees Wednesday. The letters were received Thursday. The letter notified employees of "potential legal claims" and a questionnaire requested specific information about the plant closing.

Attorney Rene Roupinian of Outten and Golden said the firm is looking for information from Archway employees to determine if there is a claim.

If factual evidence supports a WARN Act violation, the firm could help employees file a class action lawsuit against Archway. Employees could receive back pay and benefits for as many as 60 days, pending a successful suit.

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The company announced its closure Oct. 3 and informed employees via letters that their jobs would be terminated Monday. No advance notice was given. In the letters addressed to former employees, the company cited "unforseeable business circumstances" as its reason for closing.

A press release issued by the company Oct. 6 stated: "Archway and Mother's has been operating at a loss due largely to the significant increases in raw material costs, such as flour, butter, sugar and dairy, and the record high fuel costs across the country."

"Rising fuel costs would not meet the unforseeable business circumstances defense," Roupinian said.

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Roupinian said the firm heard of the Archway closing through published mass media and investigation. Outten and Golden has handled several WARN cases, including the recent suit against Bill Heard Enterprises Inc. in which employees were not given advance written notice before the company filed bankruptcy.