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Does Pharmacy Closure Violate Employment Law?

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Minneapolis, MNA food chain headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota may have violated federal and state employment laws when it announced the closure of a grocery store and pharmacy. According to the December 11 issue of the Dubuque-based Telegraph Herald, Representative Chuck Isenhart (D-Dubuque) is calling for a state investigation to determine if Nash Finch Company of Minnesota violated Iowa state and federal laws after making public its plans to close the Dubuque Econofoods located there.

The grocery store, located on Kennedy Road in Dubuque, Iowa, is set to close at the end of the month—but the pharmacy was shuttered on December 1, just a day after Nash Finch announced that the facility would be closing. It appears that the parent company violated a state two-week notification requirement for employees in Utah, although it reportedly violated no federal laws, which are said to be riddled with loopholes.

It is not clear whether Nash Finch, based in Minnesota, is bound by Minnesota employment law, as the facility in question is situated in Utah.

A former Econofoods pharmacist contends that the immediate closure of the pharmacy and sale of customer files to Hy-Vee Foods violated state law, which requires two weeks' notice to customers about their rights to choose their pharmacy.

Rep. Isenhart sent a letter to Iowa Workforce Development early this week, requesting enforcement of the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act in relation to the closure. The law is designed to protect workers and communities with advance notice of plant closings and mass layoffs. "It is my understanding that federal law requires that 60 days' notice be provided when a closing affects 50 or more employees, pursuant to a policy in the public interest that workers be allowed an opportunity to adjust to a pending job loss and seek training and/or re-employment services," Isenhart wrote.

But the Iowa Workforce Development website quotes contradictory data from the US Labor Department: in mass layoffs of 50 to 499 employees, the layoffs must make up one-third of the company work force to fall under the confines of the WARN law.

Seventy employees will lose their jobs when Econofoods closes at the end of the year.

The Minnesota-based food company bills itself as the second largest publicly traded wholesale food distributor in the country.


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