Several Bitwise Industries workers furloughed on Monday are planning to sue their former employer for violating state law, their attorney says.
“It’s just unconscionable to me that they would make their employees their last priority,” attorney Roger Bonakdar said.
“I’m so personally offended by what they’ve done to our town. And I’m committed to helping these families seek justice.” — Attorney Roger Bonakdar
He is preparing a lawsuit that could be filed next week in Fresno County Superior Court.
Bonakdar estimated more than 100 Bitwise employees reached out to him, and he is officially representing several.
The company announced it furloughed all its employees on Monday — believed to be 300 in Fresno, and reportedly 900 nationwide.
For the last two weeks, Fresno-based Bitwise suffered negative news regarding its finances — revelations they are late paying property tax and city taxes; alleged to have not paid its rent; lawsuits from a business partner; and problems with its payroll that led to Monday’s furlough.
“Bitwise is trying to call this a furlough … in my view, that’s entirely smoke and mirrors. This is very clearly an implosion of the company and the layoff,” Bonakdar said.
Employees have told Bonakdar that recent paychecks bounced.
“(Bitwise’s) conduct establishes to me total malice and indifference,” Bonakdar said.
Going to Court
Right now, Bonakdar — who is also running for Fresno City Council in 2024 — said he is taking statements from potential plaintiffs and gathering information.
Bonakdar said he will sue for, among other things, violation of the state’s layoff notification law, known as the WARN Act. It requires employees to provide 60-days notice to employees and the affected city. City and state officials said Bitwise notified no one.
“I’m so personally offended by what they’ve done to our town. And I’m committed to helping these families seek justice,” Bonakdar said.
He admits even if they win in court, “we don’t know if there’ll be something at the end of the rainbow.”
Several Bitwise employees have posted stories of hardship on social media since the furlough.
“We’re devastated by all of this,” said one furloughed employee, whose husband and mother also worked at Bitwise.
He said the last two Bitwise checks did not clear.
“We have no household income now and were furloughed w/ZERO notice,” Christopher Ramos wrote. “We can’t pay any of our bills and are left w/ out answers. Desperate times for our family right now.”
Bonakdar said he set up a dedicated email for employees to reach him at email@example.com.
Bitwise employees in Buffalo, New York, also said that they’ve had paychecks bounce and the company failed to make 401 (k) contributions.
Monica McCutcheon, a single mother of four, told wkbw.com that she is out $5,000 in pay and 401 (k) contributions.
“Now I have to apply for food stamps, because my bank account got $42,” said McCutcheon.