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NH, Mass. AGs warn Market Basket about firings, suppliers

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 31. 2014 5:17PM

Attorneys general from New Hampshire and Massachusetts warned Market Basket that they need to promptly pay any fired employees and that the company's decisions also have “serious implications” for those who supply the supermarket chain with goods.

“We wish to remind you of your company's obligations to workers whose employment may be terminated, whether or not a result of any restructuring or reorganization,” New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster and his Bay State counterpart, Martha Coakley, said in a letter released Thursday.

“Those decisions also have serious implications for the many small businesses that supply your stores or otherwise rely on a close business relationship with Market Basket for their livelihood,” they wrote co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and James Gooch. “Please keep all of these impacted persons in mind as you chart the course for Market Basket.”

Market Basket has fired a handful of employees and threatened to replace more workers if they don't return to work Monday. A family feud among Market Basket shareholders has led to customer boycotts, picketing workers and limited food deliveries to stores, causing many shoppers to deviate from their normal weekly routines. Some workers haven't returned to their jobs while others have joined picket lines outside stores during their off-hours.

Market Basket's co-CEOs put out a statement saying they want stores to return to normal.

“We have said several times that we hope sincerely that we do not discharge any employees. We want our associates back,” they said. “We are focused solely on getting Market Basket stores back up and running for our customers and, importantly, for the many local vendors that rely on Market Basket to make their own businesses successful for the sake of their employees. We respect the attorneys general position, and would of course follow all applicable laws.”

The letter from the attorneys general said their offices “have received an uptick of calls from Market Basket's employees, many of whom are concerned about their rights under the law.”

The letter said any New Hampshire worker terminated must be paid all wages that are due within 72 hours of discharge. That includes any bonuses, earned sick time, holiday or vacation pay and benefit plan contributions due under any written or oral agreement.

Employers violating the laws may face penalties.

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