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Ex-Employees Sue Over the Abruptness of the Shutdown. Anger at Jevic Mounting

The Philadelphia Inquirer - Maya Rao
Published: May 23, 2008

The news that his employer would no longer help pay for his chemotherapy arrived at Sam Vaughn's home by FedEx on Monday.

In a letter, Jevic Transportation Inc. thanked the 62-year-old, who has bladder cancer, for his service. It apologized. It said that his job of 15 years was gone.

That, effective at midnight that night, Vaughn's health insurance would be gone.

That the 27-year-old trucking business was, suddenly, gone.

Jevic's announcement Monday that it was shutting down has thrown the lives of its more than 1,000 employees into disarray.

Workers, many of whom have been with the Delanco company for decades, are scrambling for health care, wondering how to meet their mortgage and car payments, and flooding government and legal offices with phone calls.

* * *

Two employees have filed a lawsuit against Jevic in Delaware U.S. bankruptcy court, accusing the company of violating the federal Warn Act. Jevic is owned by a private firm in Florida that is not closing.

The act mandates, among other things, that companies of Jevic's size must provide 60 days' notice to employees and the government if a plant closing will cause more than 50 people to lose their jobs in a 30-day period.

The employees' attorney, Jack Raisner, said yesterday that he is seeking class-action status that would cover all employees laid off this week, including those in other states.

Raisner said he would soon amend the suit to include allegations that Jevic violated a recently passed state law, known informally as the New Jersey Warn Act. The state law also requires 60 days' notice, but does not allow for exemptions permitted in the federal act for a "faltering" company or one that has been a victim of an unforeseen business circumstance.

Jevic, which said it was forced to close by soaring diesel-fuel prices and a tough credit market, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Tuesday. The suit would seek to give laid-off employees severance granted under state and federal laws and to give workers' entitlements a higher priority as creditors' claims are sorted out.

* * *

Employees are applying in droves for unemployment benefits. Some are successfully pursuing other trucking jobs.

* * *

County officials are searching for a solution, he said, possibly through government programs.

Robinson said that employees will receive their final paychecks and accrued vacation pay over the next six weeks.

County officials have organized a job fair on June 20 at which various trucking companies will be present.

Vaughn, who lives with his wife, Libby, in Bordentown Township, failed the required physical at Cowan this week. In addition to bladder cancer, he has vascular disease, stents in his heart, and leukemia. He is also developing a cataract, which he had planned to have corrected under the company's generous insurance plan.

Vaughn received the news about Jevic's closing when his wife called while he was out making a delivery in Wall Township.

"I said, 'Sam, you lost your job. We lost our benefits, everything,' " Libby said.

Vaughn made every delivery that day. Punched out at 3:30 p.m. Came home, hugged his wife, said he was sorry.

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