Dom’s, Foxtrot parent sued over abrupt closure

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Dom's, Foxtrot parent sued over abrupt closure

Less than a day after abruptly shuttering all stores, the parent company of Foxtrot and Dom’s Kitchen & Market is facing a proposed class-action lawsuit alleging it violated workers’ rights by laying them off without required notice and pay.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Chicago, alleges Outfox Hospitality violated the federal and state Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Acts when the company laid off workers in the middle of their shifts Tuesday without allegedly providing prior notice. Both laws require 60 days’ notice for mass layoffs by certain large employers. The complaint seeks backpay and benefits for affected workers.

The named plaintiff in the lawsuit, former Foxtrot employee Jamil Moore, alleges he was laid off in the middle of his shift at a Foxtrot in Old Town without prior notice.

“Moore first learned of his termination during his shift,” the lawsuit states.

On Tuesday, a Foxtrot barista in Lakeview told the Tribune she also learned she had been laid off in the middle of her shift and did not receive an official email from corporate until she had gotten home from work.

“I was scheduled until 1 (p.m.),” she told the Tribune, “but the whole company’s shutting down at noon.”

Workers at Dom’s Lincoln Park also told the Tribune they’d found out they were out of jobs during the work day Tuesday.

Moore’s attorney, Syed Hussain, said he had heard from more than 10 laid off workers and that the complaint could be amended to add more named plaintiffs. The case would need to be certified by a judge to proceed as a class action representing all laid off workers.

The federal WARN Act requires employers with 100 or more full-time workers to provide at least 60 days’ advance notice of certain worksite closures or mass layoffs affecting at least 50 employees. The law carves out exemptions for “faltering companies, unforeseen business circumstances, and natural disasters,” according to the Department of Labor.

People linger in the parking lot of Dom’s Kitchen & Market on Halsted Street at Diversey Parkway in Chicago after the store was abruptly shut down and employees were let go on April, 23, 2024. (Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)

The Illinois WARN Act applies to employers with 75 or more full-time employees. As of Wednesday afternoon, no WARN notices by Outfox, the combined entity formed when Dom’s and Foxtrot announced plans to merge five months ago, had been posted on the state’s online database.

The state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity did not return a request for comment.

A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection confirmed the department had received a complaint against Foxtrot but would not say which Chicago labor law the violation was filed under.

“Defendants failed to pay the Named Plaintiff and each member of the WARN class their respective wages, salary, commissions, bonuses, accrued holiday pay, accrued vacation pay, and/or accrued PTO for 60 days following their respective terminations,” the complaint states.

FAQs provided to workers via email Tuesday and reviewed by the Tribune told employees they would be paid only through Tuesday, the date the stores closed.

Dom’s had two Chicago stores, one in Lincoln Park and the other in Old Town. Foxtrot had 33 stores, with about half in Chicago and the other half spread throughout Dallas, D.C. and Austin. The lawsuit filed Wednesday estimates the total number of laid off workers to be about 1,000.

When Dom’s opened its locations in Lincoln Park and Old Town, it said it planned to hire 160 and 180 people, respectively. It’s not clear how many were employed at each store at the time of closure and what share of those employees worked full time.

Company executives did not respond to the Tribune’s requests for comment made Tuesday and Wednesday. But Outfox had been meeting with investors, landlords and bankers over the last few weeks looking for a way to stay afloat, a source familiar with the company’s expansion plans told the Tribune Tuesday. Now, the source said, the company may be looking at filing for bankruptcy protection.

As of Wednesday afternoon, no bankruptcy filings had appeared in court records.

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