The collapses of Thelen and Heller Ehrman have created a bunch of interesting lawsuits that are helping to determine whether firms that hire partners from collapsed firms need to worry about assuming liability for those left behind.
The latest: Thelen employees who lost their jobs in a mass layoff without receiving proper notice or benefits have filed suit against five Am Law 100 firms who absorbed groups of ex-Thelen partners, according to the Recorder, an Am Law Daily sibling publication.
The claim: Those firms should pay $6 million in salary and benefits the employees say they are entitled to under a federal law (the so-called WARN Act) that requires employers to give employees at least 60 days notice or the equivalent in pay and benefits before a mass layoff.
The firms on the receiving end of the suit: DLA Piper; Nixon Peabody; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; Howrey; and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. The firms claim the suit is without merit, since the employees were laid off after Thelen collapsed and the partners had moved to new jobs.
That makes the partner hirings less like a traditional merger, the defendant firms say. (Acquiring companies in mergers typically take on WARN Act obligations for employees left behind in the merger, the Recorder says).