Enterprise Hit With WARN Act Suit Over COVID-19 Mass Layoff

By Hannah Albarazi
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Law360 (May 27, 2020, 9:44 PM EDT) -- A 34-year Enterprise Rent-A-Car employee laid off amid the novel coronavirus pandemic hit the company with a proposed class action in Florida federal court Wednesday, alleging its failure to notify its workers of coming mass layoffs "had a devastating economic impact" and violated the WARN Act.

Longtime Enterprise rental agent Elva Benson says the car rental company "knew its business was suffering and, thus, knew a mass layoff was coming," yet it failed to provide her and other former employees with any prior written notice of the coming layoffs, in violation of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

Benson claims the company knew that demand for rental cars was declining amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, yet failed to issue warnings of possible layoffs to employees. She says the fact that her former employer furloughed her from her job at the Orlando International Airport in mid-March — more than a month before it terminated her on April 27 — indicates that Enterprise could reasonably have expected a mass layoff due to the pandemic.

"[F]urloughing employees for a few weeks, and then terminating their employment without any advance written notice is not a substitute for — and certainly does not comply with — the WARN Act's advance written notice requirement," the suit says.

Benson says that while she received a written notice on April 27 — albeit dated April 24 — terminating her Enterprise employment without cause on her part effective April 30, she had already been fired several days prior.

Enterprise violated the WARN act by failing to "provide as much written notice as practicable under the circumstance surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, and also failed to provide a statement of the basis for reducing the notification period to zero days advance notice," Benson alleges.

Benson is seeking to recover damages equal to 60 days worth of compensation and benefits from Enterprise Holdings Inc., Enterprise Leasing Co. of Florida LLC and Enterprise Leasing Co. of Orlando LLC for herself and her similarly situated former co-workers. Proposed class members are also entitled to commissions, bonuses and accrued pay for vacation and personal days for the 60 days leading up to their terminations, Benson says.

Former employees are also entitled to medical expenses — that would have been covered and paid for by Enterprises' health insurance plan — incurred during the 60 days following their terminations, Benson says in her complaint.

The parties did not immediately respond to Law360's requests for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Enterprise isn't the only rental car company to take a hit during the pandemic, as people remain at home and shelve their travel plans. On Friday, Hertz Global Holdings Inc. sought Chapter 11 protection with roughly $24 billion in debt. Then, on Tuesday, Advantage Rent a Car filed for Chapter 11 protection, listing more than $500 million in liabilities.

Elva Benson is represented by Brandon J. Hill and Luis A. Cabassa of Wenzel Fenton Cabassa PA.

Counsel information for Enterprise could not immediately be determined Wednesday.

The case is Elva Benson et al. v. Enterprise Holdings Inc. et al., case number 6:20-cv-00891, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

--Editing by Breda Lund.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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Case Information

Case Title

Benson v. Enterprise Leasing Company of Orlando, LLC et al


Case Number

6:20-cv-00891

Court

Florida Middle

Nature of Suit

Labor: E.R.I.S.A.

Judge

Roy B. Dalton, Jr.

Date Filed

May 25, 2020

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