By Shereen Siewert
A Merrill window manufacturer that closed its doors in December, leaving 141 people without jobs, is accused of violating Wisconsin’s Business Closing and Mass Layoff law in a complaint filed by a former worker at the plant.
Semling-Menke Co., 605 N. Ohio St., announced the immediate closure to employees on Dec. 31 in a letter.
One employee, Patrick Woller, claims the company broke state law by not providing state-mandated notice to employees about the closure. Woller filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, according to a WJFW report.
Typically, companies are required by employers with 100 or more employees to provide at least 60 calendar days advance written notice of a plant closing or mass layoff affecting 50 or more employees at a single site of employment.
State officials say a mandated Worker Adjustment and Retraining notice (WARN) from Semling-Menke was sent on Dec. 30, one day before the company closed its doors, and was received on Jan. 2.
In his letter, company president Patrick Semling cited the company’s inability to obtain financing, a lack of orders, insufficient cash and the inability to sell the company as factors in the closure.
“The company has been pursuing additional financing to stay operating in Merrill but has been unsuccessful and was unable to provide any notice until now,” Semling wrote.
The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) makes certain exceptions to the 60-day requirement when layoffs occur due to unforeseeable business circumstances, faltering companies, and natural disasters. It is unclear if Semling’s circumstances fall into those categories.
Advance notice gives workers and their families some transition time to adjust to the prospective loss of employment, to seek and obtain other jobs, and if necessary, to enter skill training or retraining that will allow these workers to compete successfully in the job market.