A Mississippi-based furniture company abruptly fired nearly 2,7000 workers in the US just days before Thanksgiving, according to multiple reports.

Right before midnight on 21 November, thousands of workers – many of whom were asleep – received a text message from United Furniture Industries (UFI) saying that they were terminated effectively and were no longer allowed to return to work.

“At the instruction of the board of directors … we regret to inform you that due to unforeseen business circumstances, the company has been forced to make the difficult decision to terminate the employment of all its employees, effective immediately,” the message, which the New York Post reviewed, said.

“Your layoff from the company is expected to be permanent and all benefits will be terminated immediately without provision of Cobra,” a follow-up email from the company read, referring to a federal law that gives employees who lose their jobs the option to keep their employer-sponsored health insurance under certain circumstances.

The company also instructed its drivers to immediately “return equipment, inventory and delivery documents”, regardless of “whether or not [they] have completed [their] delivery”.

Employees were given no explanation for why they were terminated so abruptly. On Tuesday, UFI sent out an update regarding the retrieval of their belongings, which FreightWaves reviewed.

“As soon as the property manager can provide a safe and orderly process for former employees to come and gather their belongings, they will do so … We are not certain of the timeframe for this but will communicate proactively,” the email said.

In response, numerous employees expressed shock and frustration at their abrupt firing.

One employee told FreightWaves: “It’s not fair to the laborers who seriously worked so hard to be blindsided like this. It’s not fair to the mom who just had a baby to wonder if she even has health insurance to cover it. It’s not fair to the cancer patient in the midst of chemo about how to pay for her treatments.”

Another employee, TJ Martin, told WLBT: “This has been a drastic shock to every one of us … That puts a damper on everybody’s spirits, especially when you’re told to be ready to hit it hard Monday. Every one of us is dedicated to the company. We consider each other to be family members.”

On Wednesday, former employee Toria Neal filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that it violated the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act by not providing at least 60 days notice of its shutdown.

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