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Ex-TBW Workers File Class-Action Lawsuit Against Company

Ex-TBW workers file class-action lawsuit against company

By Suevon Lee
Staff writer

Published: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 11:37 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 11:37 a.m.

Less than a week after Taylor, Bean & Whitaker notified nearly 1,000 employees at its Ocala headquarters that it was eliminating their jobs, the wholesale mortgage lender is facing a lawsuit brought by many of those workers.

On Monday, in United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, a federal class-action lawsuit was filed against the company, claiming it failed to give at least 60 days’ advance notice of the mass layoffs, as required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.

Under the federal law, an employer must give at least two months’ notice if a mass layoff will result in the loss of 500 or more employees.

In a WARN notification sent out Aug. 5 — the same day the company ceased its operations — Taylor Bean human resources director Karey Holland wrote that the total number of positions eliminated in Ocala was 964.

While Taylor Bean let go of the majority of their employees at its main Ocala office, there is still an unaccounted number of workers laid off at its other offices around the country.

“People have had their whole lives almost destroyed because they [the company] didn’t give the employees notice,” said Jack A. Raisner, an employment law attorney in New York whose firm brought the class-action lawsuit.

While Raisner said it isn’t clear exactly how many TBW employees could be potential members of the class, the filing indicates “the persons…are so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable.”

The lawsuit seeks to recover 60 days’ worth of wages and benefits on behalf of those newly unemployed workers, as well as attorneys’ fees.

Taylor Bean, the third-largest FHA-insured mortgage lender and 12th-largest home mortgage provider in the country, effectively shut its business last Wednesday following a consecutive series of blows that began when FBI agents seized paperwork from its offices Monday.

The next day, the Federal Housing Authority suspended Taylor Bean from underwriting its government-insured loans and Government National Mortgage Association, or Ginnie Mae, ordered the company to stop issuing mortgage-backed securities.

Raisner said the former Taylor Bean worker who contacted him was Nicholas A. Callahan, a Duval County resident who once worked in Taylor Bean’s IT department, and who is identified as the plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The WARN Act provides for certain exceptions, such as when a company is forced to lay off a mass portion of its work force due to unforeseeable business circumstances and cannot provide 60 days’ notice.

But Raisner said in general, that argument is “not very persuasive,” especially so in Taylor Bean’s case.

“A company this size just doesn’t go out of business overnight, it just doesn’t happen,” he said by phone Tuesday. “There are always predicates to this. There are always things that are rolling up to the big event of it going out.”

In the WARN notice dated Aug. 5, Holland wrote that it was “due to unforeseeable business circumstances,” that the company would be ceasing business operations effective that day.