A bankruptcy judge has eliminated some of Dewey & LeBoeuf’s defenses to an employee class action suit.
Vittoria Conn, a former Dewey staff member, filed the class action against the firm in 2012 claiming that laying off the Dewey employees without 60 or 90 days advanced notice violated the federal and New York Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Acts.
Over two days in May 2012, Dewey sent letters to employees warning that the firm’s financial condition could result in job cuts. Hundreds of employees allegedly remained employed until they were laid off shortly before Dewey filed Chapter 11 papers on May 28, 2012.
Answering the suit, Dewey claimed advanced notice would have doomed its attempt to obtain necessary capital or business. Using an unforeseen circumstances defense, Dewey also said press reports of a criminal investigation led potential merger partners to abandon discussions.
But U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn said that to use these defenses, Dewey’s notices had to include a statement on the basis for the reduced notice period, but the firm opted not to insert it. Glenn said in-person meetings, attended by only 296 of the 429 class members, failed to work as a substitute.
Dewey can still argue other defenses to the WARN suit. The parties will proceed with discovery.
Joshua Davis, a Goulston & Storrs partner representing the Dewey trustee in the suit, declined to comment. Jack Raisner, an Outten & Golden partner representing the employees in the WARN matter, did not respond to a message seeking comment.