When a trio of Friendly‚Äôs restaurants vanished from the Connecticut landscape in the spring, it was easier to notice than when most companies vanish or downsize.
Chances are, you hadn‚Äôt been to Friendly‚Äôs in a while (don‚Äôt blame yourself for the company‚Äôs woes). Had the chain followed the 1988 federal WARN Act to give workers a 60-day warning, you could have stopped in for one last Fribble.
Instead, unknowing staff apparently turned up for work that day to shuttered doors. It escaped exactly no one‚Äôs notice that this was not friendly.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., provided a pretty good reason more companies should be less dismissive of the Workforce Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.
Schumer ratted out Friendly‚Äôs to U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.
‚ÄúI urge your agency to query the Friendly‚Äôs Corporation and investigate the manner by which service workers were notified of layoffs. A request like this is a bare minimum appeal for workers who were shocked to arrive at their jobs and abruptly told to close up shop. Workers are expected to provide employers with an industry standard ‚Äėtwo-week notice‚Äô upon quitting. These same workers should trust that their employers adhere to the same kind of agreement. It‚Äôs only fair,‚ÄĚ Schumer wrote.
Though Friendly‚Äôs closed restaurants in Danbury, Southbury and Waterbury, we don‚Äôt know what motivated Connecticut lawmakers to express interest in the WARN Act in recent weeks.
The Connecticut General Assembly‚Äôs Office of Legislative Research issued a review of the status of the WARN Act in Connecticut. This is often an early step in the path to crafting legislation.
Connecticut lawmakers have little influence over the WARN Act, as it is federally regulated. As a result, companies sometimes ignore it completely.
Some companies - Bridgewater, for example - have followed the rules of late. Others, such as Toys R Us, do not play along.
There can be other consequences for companies that dodge the law. Greenwich-based Round Hill Investments reached a deal last year to purchase the manufacturer of Sky Bar and Clark candy bars and Necco wafers. Factory workers responded with a lawsuit seeking back pay covering the 60-day notice.
The law itself has more loopholes than most gun legislation. Some of this is reasonable. Firms fear vendors panicking upon learning of pending layoffs, for example.
But the act has a few motivations. One of course, is money. The Department of Labor would prefer to save on benefits by getting a head start on finding new jobs for employees.
Other reasons - which should guide the discussion - are anchored by the morality of treating people with dignity. Sending workers to jobs that no longer exist is no way to treat employees. It‚Äôs no way to treat anyone.
So we encourage Schumer to work with colleagues to give the act more sting. Connecticut lawmakers should see what they can contribute as well. Here‚Äôs a head start: Call it the Friendly‚Äôs Law.