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Former Foxtrot Employees Just Filed a Class-Action Lawsuit Against the Market — Here’s What to Know

The company allegedly violated the WARN Act by 'failing to provide statutory notice.'

<p>John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune / Tribune News Service via Getty Images</p>

John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune / Tribune News Service via Getty Images

There’s already a class-action lawsuit against the upscale convenience store group, just a day after Foxtrot Markets abruptly shut down in Chicago and elsewhere.

On Wednesday, former Foxtrot employee Jamil Ladell Moore filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on behalf of himself and others who were abruptly let go on Tuesday.

“We are hearing from dozens of employees at this point,” said Chicago attorney Syed Hussein, who is representing Moore and his colleagues. He told Food & Wine that more names could be added to the lawsuit as former employees seek representation.

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Related: Foxtrot Markets Suddenly Shut Down, Leaving Chicagoans and Other Fans in Shock

In the complaint, Moore alleged that Foxtrot, Dom’s Market, and the stores’ parent company, Outfox Hospitality, failed to provide the legally required advance word that a shutdown was coming. Under federal and Illinois state laws, both called the Worker Notification and Retraining Notification Act, companies employing more than 100 people must give at least 60 days’ notice of mass layoffs affecting 50 or more people. Without notice, employers are required to pay employee wages, benefits, vacation pay, and other money owed to them for the next 60 days.

With 33 stores in Illinois, Texas, and the Washington D.C. area, as well as two Dom’s Markets in Chicago, Outfox had at least 1,000 employees, according to the lawsuit.

Founded in 2013 as a beverage delivery app aimed at University of Chicago students, Foxtrot opened its first brick-and-mortar store in 2015. Long before the pandemic forced grocers to embrace options beyond in-person shopping, Foxtrot promised Chicagoans 30-minute delivery of wine, craft beer, gifts, and pantry items, saying it would be a “better kind of convenience store.”

Related: OpenTable Restaurant Reviews Will Now Show Your Name and Profile Photo

In the legal filing, Moore said he was at work at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday in Foxtrot’s store in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago, when he was fired in the middle of his shift. Neither he, nor any of the Foxtrot or Dom’s employees, received any heads up that Outfox planned to close the stores. “By failing to provide statutory notice, Defendants willfully violated WARN,” the lawsuit says.

The move set social media ablaze, with posts showing bewildered customers lined up outside the shuttered stores. There were reports that employees were handing out wine and treats, until they were told to stop.

In a statement posted online Tuesday, Outfox apologized to customers for the sudden decision, which it said came after it explored alternatives to closing the stores. Along with turning off the lights, Outfox immediately dismantled a search engine for store locations on its website, shut down its mobile ordering app, and discontinued its delivery operations.

Outfox has not commented beyond the statement, and has not yet filed for bankruptcy protection, although it is rumored to be planning that step.

Related: Red Lobster May Soon File for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, Here’s Why

Outfox is the second high-profile Chicago employer this past year to close abruptly and subsequently face a class action lawsuit. Former employees at the Signature Room, high atop the John Hancock Building, got restitution earlier in April, six months after the restaurant closed. Some 132 workers won a $1.5 million lawsuit, according to Eater Chicago. 

A federal judge ruled that Infusion Management Group broke Illinois law by failing to give workers proper notice of their decision to shutter under the WARN Act. The lawsuit works out to about $11,000 per person, if divided equally.

Some employers might think it’s the Chicago Way to sneak out of town unexpectedly, but the courts see it differently. 

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Read the original article on Food & Wine.