Dewey fires 450 people in New York: lawsuit

Thu May 10, 2012 5:43pm EDT

Pedestrians walk past a sign outside of the building housing the law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP in New York, May 8, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Pedestrians walk past a sign outside of the building housing the law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP in New York, May 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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(Reuters) - Dewey & LeBoeuf has terminated about 450 people at its New York office effective Friday, according to a lawsuit filed by an employee who complained the law firm failed to give her adequate notice.

The employees received notice of the layoffs on Monday, according to the lawsuit. Angelo Kakolyris, a spokesman for Dewey, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The layoffs could be a death blow for Dewey, once one of the biggest law firms in the United States. The firm has been struggling for weeks with partner defections and debt, and it warned employees on May 4 that it could close its doors.

Thursday's lawsuit was filed by Vittoria Conn, a worker in Dewey's document production department, who said the company owes her 60 days of pay because it failed to give adequate notice.

The action was brought in federal court in New York under federal and state laws that require employers to give 60 to 90 days' notice before mass layoffs. Conn said she was notified Monday that her last day would be Friday.

The lawsuit sought class-action status for others laid off by the company. Dewey "terminated approximately 450 employees at its Facility on or about May 7, 2012, effective on or about May 11," the lawsuit said.

In a letter sent to employees on May 4, Dewey's management said it was "possible that adverse developments could ultimately result in the closure of the firm, which would result in the termination of your employment."

Separately on Thursday, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation said it would take over three pension plans covering 1,800 people sponsored by Dewey. The plans were underfunded by more than $80 million, the federal agency said.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Richard Chang and Matthew Lewis)

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