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Earth Fare employees file class-action lawsuit against bankrupt grocer

Employees say they were not given the 60-day notice required by law ahead of layoffs.
The Earth Fare going-out-of business sale at its Oldsmar location on Wednesday. [SARA DINATALE | Tampa Bay Times]

A Florida Earth Fare employee and another from Tennessee have filed a class-action lawsuit accusing the organic grocer of breaking federal law.

The employees say they were not give the 60-day layoff notice required by law when Earth Fare told them they were losing their jobs. North Carolina-based Earth Fare announced on Monday it would be closing all of its locations. The next day, it filed for bankruptcy. The chain is now having chain-wide sales to liquidate groceries.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act — commonly known as the WARN Act — requires employers with more than 50 employees to give them written 60 days notice ahead of closures and mass layoffs.

Companies found to be violating the act could owe employees back pay and benefits for up to 60 days.

The employees named in the lawsuit — Amy Hile of St. Johns County and Kelsi Cornett of Tennessee — are filing on behalf of themselves and their coworkers across Earth Fare’s 50 stores in 10 states. Three of those locations are in Tampa Bay.

The state of Florida posts Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act alerts online. As of Thursday afternoon, Earth Fare had no notices posted to the state website.

Earth Fare could not be reached for comment, but said when it announced the closings it had followed federal guidelines when notifying employees.

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