Chuck Schumer takes issue with the Friendly’s closures

The New York U.S. senator said the workers did not receive enough notice and called for a federal investigation.
Photograph: Shutterstock

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is getting involved in the Friendly’s closures.

The New York Democrat on Wednesday said that the company’s recently announced restaurant closures, 14 of which were in his state, might have violated federal regulations regarding layoff notices.

Schumer urged the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate the closures and whether proper notice was given to the employees. “No matter how you look at it, these abrupt closures and sudden firings went down as anything but friendly to Upstate workers,” Schumer said in a statement.

Friendly’s closed 23 locations over the weekend, giving the chain just 174 locations—it had more than 500 in 2007 when the private equity firm Sun Capital acquired the company in 2007. The chain filed for federal bankruptcy protection in 2011.

Federal rules require employers to give workers 60 days advance notice of large-scale layoffs—following the 1988 Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. Such notices are required when 50 or more employees at an individual workplace are terminated.

Schumer said that, when grouped together, the 14 Friendly’s locations in New York would meet that 50-worker threshold. He says the company should have given that notice.

Instead, he said, workers at the locations often showed up for work to find their restaurant closed.

“In many cases, employees at the various New York locations were completely unaware of the closures and still showed up for work the next day, only to be blindsided by the fact that they were out of a job,” Schumer’s office said in a release.

Friendly’s denied that the company violated any federal layoff notice rules. The company in a statement said that it informed workers personally and offered them assistance, including severance payments.

“An especially difficult aspect of the tough-but-necessary decision to close certain restaurants was the impact it will have on the locations’ wonderful employees, who were formed of the news personally and are being supported with opportunities at other Friendly’s locations, severance payments, and other assistance,” the statement said. “Friendly’s has fully complied with all federal and state employee notice requirements.”

Schumer wrote a letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Rene Acosta, urging the federal government to investigate whether a layoff notice was required in this instance.

“Workers are expected to provide employers with an industry standard ‘two-week notice’ upon quitting,” Schumer wrote. “These same workers should trust that their employers adhere to the same kind of agreement.”

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