Vermont AG backs laid off Koffee Kup employees in benefits dispute
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont’s attorney general is throwing his support behind a class-action lawsuit aimed at forcing the now closed Koffee Kup bakery to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in vacation time to former employees.
It comes after the abrupt closure of the Vermont-based bakery left more than 400 people out of work.
The attorney general says the former workers are entitled to their money.
Reporter Ike Bendavid: Has there been any communication since the closing?
Shannon Lewis: Zero communication.
Former Koffee Kup Sales Manager Shannon Lewis is one of the hundreds of employees who not only lost their jobs when the company closed last month but also have not been paid for their accrued time off.
Employees were initially paid out for some of the unused vacation time but about a day later that money was taken back without warning, leaving some with overdrafts in their accounts.
“PTO has been a big issue. We want to know if we are going to get it or not. And again, we are getting no conversation from anybody,” Lewis said.
Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan is stepping into the legal fight, backing those employees of Koffee Kup and its Brattleboro subsidiary, the Vermont Bread Company.
“My belief is that those employees should get the money,” said Donovan, D-Vt. Attorney General.
Donovan says the federal receiver and the bank overseeing the company’s assets should release the nearly $800,000 in accrued paid time off.
“When a business closes and goes into a receivership or bankruptcy, a receivership here, these wages need to be paid back to the employees,” Donovan said.
He says withholding the money violates state labor statutes and the Vermont Consumer Protection Act.
“That’s the Vermont law. From a policy standpoint, this is a matter of fairness. The employees earned this money they are entitled to it; the money should be paid to them,” Donovan said.
Former employees who are waiting on their money agree.
“We all feel like we got stabbed in the back, for sure,” Lewis said.
I reached out to multiple people within Koffee Kup and the court process, including the legal firm representing the receiver and the bank and was told no comment.
By some accounts, there was still demand for Koffee Kup products when the company closed. We have received tips about interest in the facilities, but none of the parties involved have responded to our calls.
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