We reported last month on the sudden pre-Christmas closing of Rolf’s Patisserie, the Lincolnwood-based supplier of desserts to restaurants and grocers (including Whole Foods) which lost clients after a food poisoning outbreak in 2010. Now former Rolf’s workers are staging a protest this morning at 11 a.m. at the shuttered facility, alleging that their final paycheck bounced and the abrupt layoffs of over 130 employees were in violation of the federal WARN Act, which sets out rules for such closings.
In a press release from Arise Chicago, a worker’s rights organization which was involved in similar protests against Republic Windows & Doors in 2008, the workers describe their final day:
Rolf’s workers were told on Dec. 10th that their plant would be briefly closed for cleaning on the 11th, but they should report as usual on Dec. 12. On the 11th, the factory’s president and owner Lloyd Culbertson-a former investment banker-asked the production manager to log him into the company’s web site, then demanded the worker leave the room. Thirty minutes later, workers checked the company’s site. They were shocked to discover a three-sentence announcement that the plant was now closed. Culbertson had not informed any of the plant’s 136 workers of the plant’s impending closure; the site’s announcement was the first any employee had heard that they were terminated.
“After working there for years, he told us through a web site,” said Karen Leyva, who worked as an office assistant manager at the end of her six-year career at Rolf’s.
As if the mass firings on the cusp of the holidays were not painful enough, workers took their final paychecks to banks and currency exchanges after December 15-only to have them bounce.
The release alleges that the firings violate the WARN act’s provisions that mandate either 60 days’ advance notice of a closing, or 60 days’ severance pay. A class action lawsuit has been filed and will be symbolically presented to the company at 11 a.m. in Lincolnwood.