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Judge says Bristol Compressors violated WARN Act, must pay former employees
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Judge says Bristol Compressors violated WARN Act, must pay former employees

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Bristol Compressors

When it closed in late 2018, idling 470 workers, Bristol Compressors was the largest private employer in Washington County. 

A federal judge has ordered Bristol Compressors International to pay former employees it terminated in 2018 more than $1.3 million.

The company, which terminated employees and closed its facility in Bristol in the summer of 2018, had violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, also known as the WARN Act, U.S. District Judge James Jones said in an order filed in Abingdon.

Bristol Compressors, which operated in the Bristol-Washington County Industrial Park between Bristol and Abingdon for more than 40 years, announced in August 2018 that it was closing, due largely to the loss of business in the Middle East. The closing last fall resulted in the loss of 470 jobs.

After terminating employees, more than 40 people filed suit against the company, citing that it had failed to provide proper notice of termination.

More than 50 employees were terminated on July 31, Aug. 1 and Aug. 2 without cause, the employees’ suit states. Many of the terminated employees said they were not provided with all the defined benefits they were due.

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The company later claimed it was exempted from giving employees a 60 days’ notice, which is required under the WARN Act.

“In this case, Bristol [Compressors] was allowed to close its entire Bristol, Virginia, [facility] … before the conclusion of the 60-day period because as of the time that notice would have been required Bristol was actively seeking capital or business which, if obtained, would have enabled it to avoid or postpone the shutdown and Bristol reasonably and in good faith believed that giving the notice would have precluded Bristol from obtaining the needed capital or business,” Bristol Compressors said.

Jones rejected the company’s claim, which also resulted in the company’s attorney to withdraw from the case. Bristol Compressors was given the opportunity to find substitute counsel but did not do so, according to Jones’ order.

On July 19, 2021, the court held a bench trial to determine liability and the amount of damages in the case. The judge said no one appeared during the trial to represent Bristol Compressors.

As a result, the judge found Bristol Compressors in violation of the WARN Act. He also determined that 128 people who had filed claims were owed damages. In addition, class members were owed bonuses in the amount of $1,000 each, the order states.

On Oct. 8, Jones determined that the former employees were entitled to payment for workdays included in the 60 calendar days following their termination without cause and without 60 days’ notice. The employees are also entitled to interest in the case, the judge said.

The judge awarded the class members a total of $1,392,915.40, which includes all damages and prejudgment interest.

rsorrell@bristolnews.com | 276-645-2531 | Twitter: @RSorrellBHC | Facebook.com/robertsorrelltn

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