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April 11, 2021

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Sunlight Supply faces class-action lawsuit for layoffs

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Almost two months after its sale was announced, Vancouver company Sunlight Supply now faces a lawsuit accusing it of laying off more than 100 workers without lawful notice.

A suit filed April 24 in the U.S. District Court’s Western District of Washington claims the Vancouver horticulture supplies company violated federal statutes that require advanced notice when large numbers of workers are laid off.

Lawyers representing Brett Martin, a former IT desktop specialist for the company, say they are seeking class action status for the workers, though lawyers are unsure exactly how many were laid off.

“We don’t know the exact numbers yet, so it remains to be seen,” said Jack Raisner, a lawyer from New York firm Outten & Golden, representing Martin.

Sunlight Supply denied the allegations in a response filed May 24. Representatives for the company declined to comment.

The dispute arises about six weeks after news broke that Sunlight Supply would sell to Ohio-based lawn care giant Scotts Miracle-Gro for $450 million — among the largest acquisitions in Clark County history.

Months before the sale was announced, Sunlight Supply filed for government aid for 135 workers in its fabrication department, saying the horticulture lights and other products they made are now imported from China.

In their suit, Martin and his lawyers claim that more than one-third of Sunlight Supply’s employees were laid off within a 90-day window. The suit argued that action would violate the Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notification Act — also known as the WARN Act.

Because the WARN Act demands 60 days’ notice to the qualified workers before termination, the suit aims to recoup that much in wages and benefits for all affected workers.

In Sunlight Supply’s response, the Lake Oswego, Ore., firm Buckley Law argued that Sunlight Supply’s layoffs were not significant enough to fall under the federal statute.

Even if the layoffs did qualify, the response said, Sunlight Supply could be excused because it faced “unforeseen business circumstances.”

When its sale to Scotts Miracle-Gro was announced, Sunlight Supply revealed it made $460 million in sales for its last fiscal year, and $55 million in earnings. The sale could close in early June.

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