Former employee sues Penn Dutch Food Centers

Attorney says Penn Dutch failed to warn employees about potential layoffs

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Penn Dutch Food Centers after the company closed both its stores in Hollywood and Margate.  

The plaintiff is Lionel Fleming, who had worked in receiving at both stores since 2012.

Attorney Richard Celler is representing Fleming in his suit filed Monday morning in federal court in Broward County.

"In light of the prior health inspections and concerns raised, all of the issues resulting in the plant shutdowns should have been foreseeable to Penn Dutch," Celler said. "As a result, Penn Dutch had enough information to plan for these closings and give our clients the proper legal notice of same, to allow them to prepare for a layoff and protect their families.  

"Instead, it appears Penn Dutch, without providing the layoff notifications that the WARN Act requires for employers of this size, pulled the rug out from under hundreds of dedicated and loyal employees, and closed the plants without notice or direction, leaving its employees to scramble on how to pay their bills and feed their families.  

"Employees also have reported that their paychecks for hours previously worked remain outstanding, as well. We have filed a class action lawsuit under the WARN Act on behalf of all affected workers, who should have been provided proper and legal notice of a lay off, and have been damaged by this unfortunate chain of events. To the extent timely and proper pay for hours worked is not compensated, we will be pursuing those claims as well."

As Local 10 News has reported, the Penn Dutch Food Center in Hollywood permanently closed last month.

That store had been open for 44 years.

The Margate store, which opened in 2004, was in the process of having a "going out of business sale" when the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services ordered them shut last Friday.

In February and again in August, food and environmental samples tested positive for listeria at the Hollywood location.

On Sept. 9, the department's Division of Food Safety collected 110 environmental samples in various areas of Penn Dutch's Margate store. On Sept. 16, the department's food laboratory found that 13 of the samples tested positive for listeria.

The state said Margate store employees violated "stop use" orders that were in effect and shut down the store.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. An estimated 1,600 people get listeriosis each year, and about 260 die. The infection is most likely to sicken pregnant women and their newborns, adults aged 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems."

About the Author:

Jeff Weinsier joined Local 10 News in September 1994. He is currently an investigative reporter for Local 10. He is also responsible for the very popular Dirty Dining segments.