Schumer Says Friendly’s ‘Unfair To Employees;’ Urges DOL To Investigate

On the heels of abrupt closures of 14 Friendly’s restaurants across Upstate New York, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today (April 10) urged the federal Department of Labor to investigate the manner by which New York workers were let go this past weekend by the Friendly’s Corporation.

According to reports, workers were in the dark and arrived at their jobs only to be told to shut the doors – for good.

During a conference call, Schumer said this swath of abrupt corporate-ordered closures demands answers from Friendly’s and from the feds.

Schumer also said the circumstance of these abrupt layoffs raises critical questions around the rights of New York service workers who are employed by larger corporations.

“No matter how you look at it, the way these abrupt closures and sudden firings went down was anything but friendly to Upstate workers,” said Senator Schumer. “As a major corporation, Friendly’s must adhere to federal laws that provide their employees with necessary updates when their employment is in imminent danger, but it doesn’t look like that happened here.”

“Or maybe there was a way to skirt those rules? Bottom line, people have a lot of questions, including me, and the feds should provide some answers,” he continued. “This kind of unannounced, mass layoff shouldn’t happen to any worker without fair notice, so it is up to the feds to investigate the manner by which Upstate workers were notified of layoffs and determine if better employee protections are needed within the service industry. If the latter is true, I will be the first to pursue a legislative fix in Congress.”

Schumer said the Friendly’s restaurant closures across Upstate New York were a shock to both employees and customers. He cited numerous media reports across Upstate documenting the situation.

He urged the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate if any WARN laws were skirted and to determine whether or not service workers in corporate service employment need better protections.

Schumer said that if an investigation determines service worker protections in corporate structures require reforms, he will be the first to raise the issue in Congress.

It does not appear Friendly’s Corporation filed any notices with the federal government, but that given the aggregate number of workers impacted, they likely should have notified the feds.

“When a worker takes a job, they are often mandated to provide a two-week notice upon quitting. Friendly’s should have to live by that same kind of standard, anything less is both unfair and irresponsible,” Schumer added.

According to widespread news reports, over the weekend of April 6-7 the Friendly’s Corporation abruptly and permanently shuttered 23 Friendly’s restaurants across the Northeastern United States. Upstate New York was the hardest hit area with 14 closures, including Oswego.

Schumer explained that in many cases, employees at the various Upstate 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.

The hardworking employees at the 14 Upstate Friendly’s locations deserved advance notice of their termination, at the bare minimum, Schumer said adding, the company’s unexpected actions were extremely alarming.

In 1988 Congress passed the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act to protect the rights of workers and employees in the United States. The WARN Act mandated that employers give their employees 60 days advance notice of large-scale layoffs under certain circumstances.

First, only organizations with 100 employees or more are required to comply with the WARN Act. Second, WARN Act notification is only necessary when 50 or more employees at an individual workplace are set to be terminated, or if 50 or more employees are impacted by a factory closing.

Schumer said that while each of the Friendly’s locations didn’t necessarily cross the 50 employee threshold, when grouped together, the locations far exceeded it.

This mass restaurant closing begs questions as to whether the Friendly’s Corporation abided by its legally-binding WARN Act obligations; and, “if they did not, how exactly the company was capable of skirting its vital obligations,” Schumer said.