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August 01. 2014 6:30PM

Fired Market Basket workers plan to sue company

Market Basket’s battle with its workers may now head to court.

On Friday, eight senior managers who were fired for their roles in organizing employee protests and promoting customer boycotts announced plans to sue the supermarket chain for wrongful termination and unpaid wages.

Meanwhile, Market Basket has sent letters to other supervisors and buyers telling them not to expect their August paychecks, but added that salaries will resume if employees show up for work on Monday.

News of the lawsuit and plans to withhold pay came a day after the attorneys general of New Hampshire and Massachusetts sent a letter to Market Basket’s board of directors and co-CEOs Felicia Thorton and James Gooch, reminding them of their legal obligations to workers.

According to New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster, labor laws require employers to pay workers who are fired any wages due, including bonuses, sick time and earned vacation pay, within 72 hours of their last day on the job. Any violations of those laws can trigger civil and criminal penalties and pave the way for lawsuits from the workers.

Senior managers Steve Paulenka, Joe Garon, Dean Joyce, Tom Trainor, Joe Schmidt, James Lacourse, Tom Gordon and Michael Kettenbach received termination notices by courier a day after the July 18 rally at the company’s headquarters in Tewksbury, Mass., where store protests and boycotts were launched.

Workers have been rallying and picketing stores for the past two weeks demanding the reinstatement of former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, who was fired after decades of bitter infighting among members of the family-owned business.

Paulenka, who has been with Market Basket for 40 years, and Trainor, who has 41 years with the company, have since joked publicly that they were “fired by courier.” Trainor has also knocked the two co-CEOs for not having the “guts” to fire him and the others in person.

Although Arthur T. Demoulas has remained silent about worker protests and his offer to buy out rival family members who own shares of Market Basket, he did release a public statement early last week urging the company to reinstate the eight managers for the good of the company.

Instead, Thorton and Gooch sent letters this week to buyers and district supervisors informing them not to expect their August paychecks because of their “ongoing failure to report to work and their unwillingness to perform any services for the company.”

While store managers have been showing up for work every day, warehouse workers have said they have been locked out or turned away by security guards. Part-time workers have had their hours cut and are now using their days to picket the stores and company warehouse.

Market Basket plans to hold a three-day job fair starting Monday for current employees interested in moving up to management, and for new workers to replace no-show employees and those who have vowed to quit if Arthur T. Demoulas is not reinstated.

More rallies

Workers plan to rally at the Market Basket store at Stadium Plaza in Tewksbury, Mass., on Monday, Aug. 4, at 11 a.m.

Plans are also being made to demonstrate later in the day in Andover, Mass., where the company will hold its job fair.

btaormina@newstote.com



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