Fanatics Hit With Lawsuit Over Mass Employee Layoffs

Fanatics Inc. has been hit with a proposed class action lawsuit over its alleged failure to provide adequate notice to several hundred employees it terminated last month.

In a complaint filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Florida, Fanatics worker Olga Calero — on behalf of similarly situated individuals — said that the retailer provided her and other workers written notice just four days before they were terminated from the company on Aug. 28. She claimed that the move was in violation of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires that most employers with 100 or more workers to provide a 60-day advance notice of plant closings and mass layoffs of employees.

“The crucial date under the WARN Act is not the date when the company knows that a mass layoff is imminent, nor is it the date when the company finally gets around to identifying the exact employees affected by the mass layoff. Rather, the WARN Act states plainly that the trigger date is the date when a mass layoff is ‘reasonably foreseeable,'” the suit read. “As soon as it is probable that a mass layoff will occur, the employer must provide notice as soon as is practicable.”

According to the lawsuit, Calero suggested that Fanatics “likely knew” near the end of March or in early April that a “mass layoff was ‘reasonably foreseeable.'” When the coronavirus health crisis took hold in the United States, the chain was forced to shutter its locations and resorted to furloughs starting on March 20. Calero shared that she and other furloughed employees received phone calls and emails that indicated they would be brought back to work but learned on Aug. 24 that they would be let go from the company.

“This, in turn, caused the named plaintiff not to seek other employment as she erroneously assumed she would be brought back to work,” the suit read. “The same is true for other putative class members.”

It added, “While [the plaintiff] understood that the ongoing pandemic was causing problems for the company, she both expected and was entitled to sufficient advance written notice as to her termination… [Fanatics’] failure to provide its employees with sufficient advance written notice had a devastating economic impact on the named plaintiff and the putative class members.”

Calero said that between 100 and 200 people were laid off at the facility in Riverview, Fla., where she served as a shipping clerk. She shared that she had worked at Fanatics for nearly 16 years.

As part of the complaint, Calero has asked for 60 days’ worth of wages, bonuses and benefits, plus damages for medical expenses that may have been incurred by the proposed class action members.

In a statement to FN, a Fanatics spokesperson wrote, “The complaint is without merit, and we strongly believe our actions are fully consistent with all applicable laws.”

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