Appeals court: Company layoffs did not violate law

Published 1:17 pm Friday, September 12, 2008

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a military clothing manufacturer did not violate federal law when it laid off 102 workers in 2005 at its Columbus plant without 60 days notice.

The ruling by a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld the decision of a Mississippi federal judge.

American Power Source was sued in 2006 by 40 current and former workers who claimed the Massachusetts-based company violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, a law that requires employers to give 60-day notices before plant closings or mass layoffs.

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APS makes military uniforms for the Department of Defense. It also has a plant in Fayette, Ala.

APS officials in Columbus did not immediately return a message Wednesday seeking comment.

The federal law applies to employers with at least 100 employees that terminate or lay off at least 33 percent of their workers within a 30-day period.

The lawsuit sought back wages and benefits for the workers terminated in early 2005 without advance notice.

In 2006, U.S. District Judge Mike Mills in Mississippi dismissed the lawsuit.

On Tuesday, the 5th Circuit said workers did not disprove the company’s claims that one-third of its work force was not laid off. The company said it had 343 workers at the time at the Columbus and Alabama plants.

APS said the two plants operated as a single company unit, operating under the same government contract and sharing employees.

The company said the layoffs occurred after the Defense Department reduced its order for military uniforms — an unforeseen circumstance that is an exception to the 60-day notification requirement.

Tuesday’s ruling was issued by a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit — Rhesa H. Barksdale, Fortunato P. Benavides and James L. Dennis.