Bitwise Industries officially fired its reported 900 employees in an email Wednesday morning.
“On behalf of Bitwise Industries, Inc. (Bitwise), we regret to inform you that your position will be eliminated Wednesday, June 14, 2023,” interim president Ollen Douglass wrote in a message sent around 10:30 a.m. Pacific Time.
The company furloughed employees on May 29, although two lawsuits filed on behalf of employees said they were essentially fired.
The layoffs affect Bitwise employees in Fresno, Bakersfield, Oakland; Greely, Colorado; Chicago; Las Cruces, New Mexico; Toledo, Ohio; Buffalo, NY; and El Paso, Texas.
“Bitwise Industries, Inc. does not have a job bumping system, that is, employees will not be able to displace more junior employees out of their job positions as a result of this mass layoff, which is due to unforeseeable business circumstances and other reasons. Due to these unforeseeable business circumstances and other reasons, we were unable to provide you more notice,” Douglass wrote.
He said employees could be eligible for unemployment insurance. Emails were sent to the personal email accounts the company had on record, an attorney representing employees told GV Wire.
One former Bitwise employee said on social media that the company should be ashamed of itself.
The city of Fresno will hold a job fair at 10:00 a.m. Friday at City Hall.
Employees Warned to Keep Records
Douglass threatened workers in an email communication on Tuesday, warning that former employees could be subject to prosecution if they don’t save company documents.
“We are writing to inform you of a couple of important matters that require your immediate attention relating to Bitwise Industries as well as entities and persons associated with and doing business with Bitwise Industries. This is what is referred to commonly as a ‘Document Preservation Notice’ or ‘Preservation Notice,’ and there can be civil or even criminal consequences if you do not comply with this Notice,” Douglass wrote.
Douglass, a member of the Bitwise board of directors, took over as the company’s president when co-CEOs Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin Jr. were fired on June 2.
The email told employees to not engage in any transactions on behalf of Bitwise; and to preserve “all Company property, documents, accounts, records, data, and other forms of information.”
Attorney: Bitwise ‘Morally Bankrupt’
Attorney Roger Bonakdar, representing employees in a lawsuit against Bitwise, blasted Douglass’ request.
“After throwing 900 families’ lives into financial ruin, the first thing the Bitwise board decides to do is make pathetic and bogus threats of civil and criminal prosecution against its victims? This email from Bitwise President Ollen Douglas makes clear that he and the Bitwise board are morally bankrupt and deny responsibility for the epic amount of harm they have caused. It’s disgusting and shameful,” Bonakdar said.
Jack Raisner represents another group of employees suing in federal court. He says Douglass’ email is nothing more than boiler plate language and has no authority.
“We don’t think that in a termination of operations, a company is entitled to give instructions regarding activities,” Raisner said.
Raisner said it could be true there would civil and criminal consequences for destroying evidence, but only if the company specified litigation.
“We understand why employees are feeling naturally concerned about any threat of any consequences regarding their activities. And so in that sense, this this letter is irresponsible and errant and inappropriate,” Raisner said.
Because the email did not have any reference to a specific litigation, “the net effect of that is nil,” Raisner said.
“It’s absolutely meaningless,” Raisner siad.
Raisner recommends former employees contact an attorney if they have questions about any equipment or documents.
Douglass, through a media liaison, would not comment.