Bitwise Class Action Lawsuit
The lawsuit was filed June 7 in Superior Court of California, County of Fresno by several Bitwise workers who claim they were terminated without cause around May 29, 2023, and within thirty days of that date, the plaintiffs and other employees were not provided sixty days advance written notice of their terminations. The plaintiffs further accuse Bitwise of:
- Failure to properly pay wages at the time of termination
- Failure to pay wages during employment
- Failure to issue and maintain compliant wage statements
- Passing checks that bounced
- Engaging in wage theft, and
- No longer making matching contributions to employees’ 401k retirement savings as of March.
The lawsuit states that Soberal allegedly told investors privately that “Bitwise is done” and “(the board) have been meeting twice a day to manage the situation,” and that Bitwise purposely mislabeled the employment action as a furlough “to both mislead the public and the Bitwise employees.” (The Bitwise board of directors fired co-CEOs Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin Jr. on June 2, reported GVWire.)
Given this information, the plaintiffs’ attorney believes that Bitwise had no intention of bringing employees back to work. But the main issue in the 24-page complaint is violation of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which requires employers to notify workers at least 60 days ahead of mass layoffs.
Furlough vs. Layoff
Furloughs and layoffs are two ways employers deal with not having enough work or enough budget for their employees. But a furlough is supposedly temporary and allows workers to keep their jobs during a period of change, while a layoff is typically permanent—a termination of an employee’s contract. Investopedia explains the difference:
- While you might not get a paycheck in either circumstance, if you've been furloughed, you can often expect to keep receiving benefits through your employer, possibly at increased cost.
- If you're laid off, you'll likely only be able to keep benefits that are portable—and only if you pay their full cost.
- A furlough will reduce your hours, with a commensurate reduction in pay. Your employer might cut your hours by 10%, by half, or might have you stop working entirely.
- While furloughs are meant to be temporary, they can turn into layoffs if the turnaround your employer is hoping for doesn't happen.
- Layoffs are usually permanent, although some industries have seasonal layoffs
READ MORE CALIFORNIA LABOR LAW LEGAL NEWS
Bitwise describes itself as a tech company that focuses on underserved communities, helps start-up companies, and is known to inspire the next generation of tech leaders and entrepreneurs through training. Its goal was to become the nation’s largest tech apprenticeship. On its blog from 2022 employees wrote “11 reasons why we love Bitwise Industries”. Perhaps those employees don’t feel the love anymore.