Fulfillment Workers Sue BlueSky Brands

Mar 27, 2008 4:28 AM  By

Nearly two weeks since BlueSky Brands closed its doors, the catalog holding company has yet to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection—or respond to any media requests.

But there has been some activity at BlueSky’s third-party fulfillment arm AB&C Group, as merchant clients try to get their goods out of the shuttered warehouse and into another distribution center. The Martinsburg (WV) Journal reports that some ex-AB&C employees were helping to move client inventory on March 25.

The DC’s clients included Smithsonian catalog, Barrie Pace, Bra Smyth, Healthy Directions, and the United States Olympic Committee, among others.

Owned by Chicago-based private equity firm Reliant Equity Investors, BlueSky Brands included Paragon Gifts, Bits and Pieces, Bits and Pieces U.K., National Wildlife Direct, and Winterthur catalogs. Calls to Reliant Equity Investors were not returned.

The Journal also says that attorney Paul Taylor filed a class action suit on March 25 on behalf of the workers laid off from AB&C’s Martinsburg facility in Jefferson County Circuit Court. A similar lawsuit had been filed the previous week in Berkeley County Circuit Court, according to reports. AB&C’s two DCs employed about 400 people.

According to a former supervisor in AB&C’s Orange, VA, call center, employees in both states are pursing legal action against Bluesky Brands for violations to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act Guide to Advance Notice of Closings and Layoffs. The WARN Act requires employers to provide notice 60 days in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs.

Like the fulfillment center workers, the catalog employees are still trying to deal with the abrupt loss of their jobs and benefits. Ileane Strong, a former buyer for National Wildlife Direct, says she was laid off from the cataloger on March 7 and a document saying that March 31 would be the last day of her health insurance coverage.

But Strong says the insurance company told her the policy had been cancelled March 15 (the day after BlueSky Brands shut down). Because HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) documents say Strong is insured through March 31, she can’t get interim insurance until that (cancelled) policy expires.

Former National Wildlife Direct and BlueSky executives were trying to help her, Strong says, but the situation has yet to be resolved. Being laid off is a part of life, she notes, “but not being told accurate information about how to proceed is inexcusable.”—Additional reporting by Jim Tierney