I love movies and have so many fond memories of Alamo Drafthouse in Dallas. I have a season pass, but I’m not sure when I can use it again.  The last movie I saw was a special showing of Hitman.  I was shocked and disheartened when all five Alamo Theaters suddenly closed in Dallas. What I loved about Alamo Drafthouse was its quirkiness and amazing employees.  It was a unique place of joy that enhanced the movie-going experience.

As an employment lawyer, I know that sudden closures often viloate the federal WARN Act. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act is a federal law designed to protect employees by requiring large employers to provide a 60-day notice in advance of major layoffs or plant closures. The goal is to give workers time to prepare for the loss of their jobs, allowing them to seek new employment or undergo retraining.  

Even if a company goes bankrupt, they still have to comply with the WARN Act.  And a company with assets – like a bunch of movie theaters and real estate – often has assets to pay its fired employees.  Becasue Alamo Drafthouse failed to provide the required notice, they are obligated to pay 60 days of pay and benefits to affected employees!  It’s black and white.  We sometimes call these laws “strict liability” statutes.

I’m a board certified Texas labor and employment lawyer, this is my analysis of why I believe that Alamo Drafthouse (or at least it’s franchisee) broke the law:

First, the WARN Act only applies to employers with 100 or more full-time workers. But according to WFAA news, there are 600 employees effected in this layoff.  So clearly there were more than 100 workers at the five locations.

Second, the WARN Act requires a mass layoff affecting 50 or more employees.  Again, more than 50 employees were laid off.

Third, Alamo Drafthouse doesn’t fall under an exemption – like a natural disaster or unforseeable circumstance.  These theaters had been losing money.  This is what makes me really mad.  The owners saw this coming, and they could have prepared, but they didn’t.

Finally, Alamo Drafthouse failed to give the federally required sixty day notice.  There’s no doubt about this.  It seems to me that Alamo Drafthouse (or at least it’s franchisee) is guilty.

The main remedy of the WARN Act is 60 days pay. Bankruptcy is not a defense against the WARN Act and unpaid wage claims usually take priority over other claims. It’s possibly that the individual owners themselves may be liable under the Texas Fraudlent Transfer Act or if the owners weren’t following the formal rules that govern companies.

I regularly file lawsuits in federal court representing workers.  I would love to represent workers of Alamo Drafthouse and Two is One, One is None, LLC who were screwed over in this layoff.  My law firm allows potential clients to schedule an initial consultation by calling 214-528-6500.

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Photo of Robert J. Wiley Robert J. Wiley

Robert J. Wiley is the founder and owner of Rob Wiley, P.C.  Mr. Wiley is board certified as a specialist in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  Mr. Wiley graduated with honors from Tulane Law School and received…

Robert J. Wiley is the founder and owner of Rob Wiley, P.C.  Mr. Wiley is board certified as a specialist in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  Mr. Wiley graduated with honors from Tulane Law School and received his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University.

1. If you were not practicing labor and employment law what would you be?

I cannot imagine doing anything other than the job I have now.  Maybe I would be a union leader or work for a nonprofit.

2. What skills do you most value as an employment attorney?

Being an employment lawyer, you have to have two specialized sets of skills.  On one hand, you have to be able to draft motions in court that are extremely complicated and technical.  On the other hand, you have to turn around and be able to explain these complicated and technical legalities to individuals who are not lawyers.

3. When did you decide to become a lawyer?

I think that I have always wanted to be a lawyer.  My parents would tell you that I seemed predestined to be a lawyer.

4. What is the biggest mistake you see clients make?

Not hiring a lawyer!  Whether you’re complaining to the EEOC, going to court, attending a hearing with the Texas Workforce Commission unemployment division, or anything else legal, you really need to hire a lawyer.  Even if you do not hire my law firm, you need to get a lawyer to represent you.

5. What is your favorite employment law?

My favorite employment law is Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964.  This law, passed over fifty years ago, remains one of our most important laws today. The Civil Rights Act set the stage for the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and numerous other employment laws protecting individuals from discrimination.  The Civil Rights Act was also an act of bipartisanship.  I think that our current government could learn a lot from the determination of our government’s leaders in the 1960’s.

6. What one employment issue would you argue before the Supreme Court?

I would argue that arbitration agreements are unconstitutional because they deprive citizens of the right to a jury.  I believe that the right to a jury, enshrined in the Seventh Amendment, is just as important as freedom of speech, freedom from unlawful search and seizure, or the right to bear arms.

7. Who is your favorite Supreme Court justice?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  I hope she never resigns and she lives forever.

8. What would you say to HR of a company about how to treat employees?

Treat employees who bring heartfelt complaints with dignity.  Try to find truth, rather than inevitably siding with management over subordinate employees. Human Resources has the ability to defuse a potential lawsuit by doing the right thing.  Retaliating against the employee because they complain about discrimination or ill treatment will only make matters worse.

9. Besides Rob Wiley, P.C., what is the most interesting job that you have had?

While I was an undergraduate in Nashville, I briefly worked as a tour guide.

10. What is the secret to your success?

The attorneys who work for me.