Unjustly fired Rolf’s bakery workers win settlement for severance pay

Unjustly fired Rolf’s bakery workers win settlement for severance pay
Photo by Dystopos/flickr.

More than 18 months after a group of workers first filed a lawsuit against Rolf’s Patisserie, Inc., for unpaid severance pay, the former employees of the Lincolnwood-based baker finally have a check in their hands.

The 134 workers were fired from Rolf’s just before Christmas in December 2011, when the company closed its doors with little or no notice to its workers, many who had worked at the company for years. In a narrative that had by then become familiar, Rolf’s was in dire economic straits--the final paychecks it gave employees bounced--and it looked like the workers were going to be left empty-handed.

In response, they filed a class-action lawsuit under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, alleging wage theft and failure by Rolf’s to give 60 days’ notice of the closing. The WARN Act is a federal law requiring any employers with 100 or more employees to give 60 days’ notice of mass layoffs, or offer compensation of 60 days of wages.

With the help of the Arise Chicago Worker Center, a labor rights group that works with faith organizations, the Rolf’s workers were able to recover the value of their unpaid checks in January 2012. On Wednesday, they received a settlement with a portion of their 60 days pay.

“It’s been a devastating journey for quite a few of us, but I can tell you we are ever so grateful,” said Karen Leyva, a former office and retail manager who had been working at Rolf’s for more than seven years when the company closed its doors.

Leyva plans to use her check to pay rent. She is still out of work, and wonders whether speaking out about the Rolf’s Patisserie case has kept her from finding a new job. “Sadly in this day and age, when you speak up for yourself when injustice has occurred, other businesses will look upon you as a troublemaker.”

Along with the workers fired in December 2011, the settlement also included 94 workers who had been fired from Rolf’s when the company closed briefly, and without any notice to its workers, in 2010.

Read the entire story of how workers found out they were fired in December 2011--from a message posted publicly on the company’s website here.

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