By Shereen Siewert

Merrill-based Semling-Menke Company, Inc., will pay more than $650,000 to eligible employees after abruptly shutting down operations in 2019, Attorney General Josh Kaul announced on Thursday.

Semling-Menke Co., 605 N. Ohio St., announced the immediate closure to employees on Dec. 31, 2019 in a letter. The closure left 141 people without jobs and accusations of violating Wisconsin’s Business Closing and Mass Layoff law.

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.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), on February 1, 2021, alleging that the company failed to provide the required 60-days’ notice to employees before ceasing its business operations. The lawsuit has now been resolved, Kaul said.

“With this resolution, substantial payments are being made to workers who lost their jobs when the business closed,” Kaul said.

Eligible employees will receive checks of varying amounts, depending on wage calculations conducted by DWD. SEMCO mailed checks directly to eligible employees earlier this month.

“When an employer fails to give employees proper notice of a business closing, the negative impact of the lost jobs is compounded by the effects on families and communities,” said DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek.

During the 90 days following when the checks were mailed, SEMCO is required to attempt to re-deliver any returned check. At the end of the 90 days, Semco will give an accounting of completed payments to DWD.

Act 369 does not apply to this agreement because the amounts that DWD believes were owed to affected employees are being paid in full and the case is therefore not being “compromised or discontinued” within the meaning of the statute, Kaul said.