NEW YORK, Dec. 10 As the Chicago workers' sit-in shiftednational attention to the plight of laid-off workers, the conflict also showsthat millions of non-union employees face a nightmarish loss of healthcoverage benefits in layoffs and should know their legal rights, according tothe national employee rights law firm of Outten & Golden LLP.
According to Jack A. Raisner, a partner in the New York office of Outten &Golden LLP which represents employees throughout the nation in pendinglayoff-related litigation, "The Chicago sit-in should be a wake-up call to the88 percent of employees nationally who are not union members and depend ontheir employers alone for their health coverage."
Raisner points to the dire medical crises facing hundreds of laid-offemployees from Archway Cookies and Mother's Cookies who were profiled lastweek in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times as proof of his point.
"In a sense," Raisner says, "the Chicago employees are the lucky ones.When most of the rest of us lose our jobs in a company shut down orbankruptcy, we don't have a safety net of a union to turn to when it comes tohealth insurance. That's the situation for thousands of employees of bankruptcompanies such as Archway and Mother's Cookies, national car dealer Bill HeardEnterprises, and trucking company Jevic Transportation. Millions more may bestricken by the combination of job and insurance loss as bankruptcies andlayoffs soar."
Outten & Golden is pursuing WARN Act claims on behalf of at least 25groups of laid-off or terminated employees from around the nation. Rene' S.Roupinian, who co-chairs Outten & Golden LLP's WARN Act group(http://www.warnlawyers.com), urges employees to investigate whether theymight be covered by the WARN Act, which provides eligible employees whoreceive less than 60 days' termination notice back pay and benefits whichinclude medical expenses expended due to lack of health insurance during thenotice period.
"Many do not realize that when an employer goes out of business, theyusually terminate their health insurance plans," Roupinian says. "If a companyfiles for bankruptcy, that is almost certain to happen. Employees cannot evenpay to continue that coverage on their own. They are often let go with noinsurance to pay for necessary prescriptions and recently obtained medicalprocedures for themselves and their families."
Like the protesting Chicago workers, American employees who are let gosuddenly in mass layoffs and shutdowns may have the right to 60 days advancewritten notice under the WARN Act, Raisner and Roupinian say.
Looking ahead, they hope that Congress will extend the notice period to 90days in a strengthened version of a law called FOREWARN. Passed by the Houseof Representatives in 2007, the Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown(D-Ohio), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-New York) and President-Elect Barack Obama,has stalled.
Raisner says that reforming the WARN Act should be a priority of the newadministration. "Congress is helping Wall Street banks, the automotiveindustry and others, but those truly worthy of assistance are the Americanworkers."
A strengthened WARN Act would prevent workers reeling from a plantshutdown from falling into a medical coverage abyss. Raisner says, "Todaythat's not happening. Employees are skimping, not getting medical help, nottaking their medications out of fear of running out. Employees should not haveto sue under the WARN Act or wait until health care reforms are enacted toaddress this worsening national issue. The sad reality is, some laid-offworkers, those with the most challenging health conditions, will not make itif Congress does not act fast."
About Outten & Golden LLP
With offices in New York and Stamford, Conn., Outten & Golden LLP is oneof the nation's preeminent law firms representing employees. O&G representsemployees with a wide variety of claims in federal and state courts as well asin mediation and arbitration proceedings. The firm's eight practice groups areExecutives & Professionals, Securities & Financial Services Industry, SexualHarassment, Disability & Family Responsibilities, LGBT Workplace Rights,Discrimination & Retaliation, Class Actions, and WARN. More information aboutthe firm is available at http://www.outtengolden.com.
Attorney Contacts: Jack A. Raisner or Rene' S. Roupinian, Outten & GoldenLLP, New York, 212.245.1000, http://www.outtengolden.com.
Media Contact: Erin Powers, Powers MediaWorks LLC, for Outten & GoldenLLP, 281.703.6000 or 281.362.1411.
SOURCE Outten & Golden LLP