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No easy exit for Universal Health Care employees

Former Universal Health Care workers, from left, Sandy Carnaroli, 57, Sherry Coggins, 43, and Charlene Reynolds, 39, try to return equipment to the St. Petersburg headquarters Monday based on messages over the weekend. At the door, the guard said the time had changed. About 800 employees lost their jobs last week, and FBI agents raided the company Thursday.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times

Former Universal Health Care workers, from left, Sandy Carnaroli, 57, Sherry Coggins, 43, and Charlene Reynolds, 39, try to return equipment to the St. Petersburg headquarters Monday based on messages over the weekend. At the door, the guard said the time had changed. About 800 employees lost their jobs last week, and FBI agents raided the company Thursday.

ST. PETERSBURG — It sounded like a cruel April Fool's Day joke.

But it was just another insult to injury for employees of Universal Health Care who had already lost their jobs, their paid time off and health care benefits when the insolvent Medicare insurer closed last week.

A handful of Universal employees who tried to turn in company property and pick up their personal belongings Monday morning were told to come back later because the company had changed the rules for when they could receive their exit papers.

Instead, a new recording directed them to a page on the company's website, univhc.com/about/associate-info.php, for information on what time to clean out their desks Monday or Tuesday based on the first three letters of their last names.

Three employees — Sandy Carnaroli, Sherry Coggins, and Charlene Reynolds — had had enough. They refused to haul their equipment back to their cars, leaving it inside the front doorway at Universal's downtown headquarters at 100 Central Ave.

About 800 Universal employees lost their jobs last week after the company was liquidated. FBI agents raided the company Thursday, accessing information off computers in a widening probe into allegations of fraud, embezzlement and other financial mismanagement.

Many of the workers who were ushered to the sidewalk during the FBI raid haven't been able to get back in the building since.

One thing hadn't changed with the revised exit process: Employees still aren't being paid for taking time to come back to Universal's headquarters, return company property, pick up their belongings and sign final papers.

Times photographer Cherie Diez contributed to this report.

No easy exit for Universal Health Care employees 04/01/13 [Last modified: Monday, April 1, 2013 8:27pm]
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