Fisker sued for sudden layoffs

By: James R. Healey
Posted: April 8, 2013
USA Today

Fisker Automotive is being sued for laying off most of its workers without what the suit says is enough notice.

The suit was filed Friday, the same day Fisker laid off 160 of its 213 employees. The Fisker suit was brought in California by Outten & Golden, a New York firm that successfully sued failed solar-panel maker Solyndra for abruptly laying off most workers in August 2011.

The suit is on behalf of former Fisker worker Sven Etzelsberger and seeks class-action status *******.

Because Fisker's action amounts to mass layoffs, according to the lawsuit, the workers should have been "provided 60 days advance written notice" of the layoffs, under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act and a similar California labor law.
The Fisker lawsuit seeks 60-days' worth of wages and benefits for the ex-Fisker workers. "It's a knowable number, but we don't know it" because Fisker has the records, he said.

Calls to Fisker's Anaheim, Calif., headquarters were answered by a recording. Voice mail messages seeking comment on the lawsuit and Fisker's status were not returned.

A large-scale layoff "often is a prelude to bankruptcy" filing, according to Jack Raisner, one of the Outten & Golden lawyers involved in the suit. He also was involved in the 2011 action against Solyndra that eventually won $3.5 million *****.

"It happens when a company is circling the drain," he said, while insisting he had "no insight or knowledge" about whether Fisker plans to file for bankruptcy reorganization, or liquidation. ****

Fisker hasn't made any cars since the middle of last year, after its battery supplier, A123 Systems, went out of business. A123 had a $249 million grant of taxpayer money from the Department of Energy, but * went though bankruptcy reorganization and now is owned by China's largest auto components supplier, Wanxiang Group.

Fisker and Solyndra both received taxpayers' money via federal loans, not outright grants, that were meant to promote alternative energy and propulsion.

Fisker got approval for $529 million from the Advanced Vehicle Technology Loan program, but borrowed only $193 million of it before the government froze the loan. The Energy Department said Fisker failed to meet agreed-upon milestones, but has refused to specify what those were.

Fisker's first repayment is due this month.