Here’s how NOT to terminate 938 people abruptly, and by email

Here's how NOT to terminate 938 people abruptly - and by email

There really is no sure-fire way to deliver bad news to your entire staff.

Some experts suggest you dish it out easy, in small increments, to soften the blow. Others says just rip off the Band Aid and be done with it.

The owners of a Pennsylvania custom cabinet factory took the ripped Band Aid approach — they chose to terminate by email, en masse — and as a result, the blood is still flowing.

Robert and Brooks Gronlund, owners of Wood-Mode Inc., sent an automated text to workers last week thanking them for service throughout the years – and in the very next sentence then told them all their benefits ceased, effective at midnight.

“It was the final kick in the gut,” Michele Sanders, a 22-year employee, told the local newspaper.

The closure of the privately-owned company in Kreamer, PA, left 938 people without jobs, stunning the workers and community economic leaders.

Angered by poor communication

Sanders called the automated messages a “nail in the coffin. I don’t want to hear it,” she said. “Don’t thank me. You (owners) have money in the bank.”

“This is our thank you. All I get is an automated message, not a personal message.”

The Gronlunds were seldom seen in the production part of the plant when it was up and running, she said.

Most of the employees were more angered by the poor communication, than by the loss of their jobs.

“Common sense and decency would dictate that a community that gave so much to this company would have more warning,” said U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA).

Robert Garrett, a local Chamber of Commerce leader, called the closure “catastrophic” to the region.

The automated messages and texts employees received informed them their health and life insurance plus a 401(k) plan had been terminated. They were told they would be given instructions for withdrawal or rollover of the pension funds.

Federal lawsuits filed

Salaried and office hourly employees were told due to the company’s long-standing policy, they will not be paid for unused vacation time.

Wood-Mode said the company was forced to close after a prospective buyer on May 7 backed out and two days later learned a lender was unwilling to provide additional money so the company could stay open to consider another offer.

Three employees have filed separate federal lawsuits accusing Wood-Mode of not providing employees the required 60-day written termination notice as required by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

The plaintiffs want class-action certification for their complaints that seek pay and benefits class action for 60 days.

Rich Henson
Rich Henson, a member of the HRMorning staff, has spent the past two decades developing potent HR and Management content that helps guide successful leaders forward with confidence. He is a former editor and reporter with The Philadelphia Inquirer. Email: rhenson@hrmorning.com