Wood-Mode fallout continues as employees sue; dealers hit hard
May 21, 2019 | 10:20 am CDT
KREAMER, Penn. - Two former Wood-Mode employees are suing the company after they were laid off without adequate notice.
William Swede and Curtis Tego filed separate lawsuits against the former cabinet maker, alleging the company failed to provide the 60-day written termination notice required under the Worker Adjustment and Retainment Notification Act (WARN).  Wood-Mode, one of the nation's oldest cabinet manufacturers, shuttered its doors last week - laying off its 1,000 employees.
The lawsuits are to represent all affected employees and seek damages equal to what the employees would have received if they worked an extra 60-day period. 
Wood-Mode's estimated 1,000 employees were shocked when they were suddenly out of a job. They were informed through a letter, hand-delivered to employees as they arrived to work, that said the company had been "seeking financing and other alternatives, including new capital and a possible sale transaction that would have enabled it to continue operations." Wood-Mode said it learned last week that a potential buyout had fallen through and that its lender was unwilling to provide additional funding.
The county is working to assist affected employees. The industry is also looking to help. Seven employees have already been hired by the nearby Apex Homes, which hopes to hire up to 30.
Besides affecting employees, the closure is having a ripple effect on the industry. Wyoming-based Chorba's Cabinet Shop has been an exclusive Wood-Mode dealer for 25 years. Now, it may have to close.
"I'll be 63 years old," owner Joe Chorba told the Daily Item in an interview. "Now I have a showroom that's worth nothing. To put that into perspective, they put me out of business. To start over at 63, I would need $100,000 to start again. I'm not about to go into that kind of debt."
Chorba said he lost three orders in the two days following the closure, which came unexpectedly for him too. Wood-Mode has dealers around the United States, Canada, and even South America. 
"I have two large orders that are 90 percent complete in warehouse that were due to ship this week and next week," Lynn Colangelo of New York-based Classic Kitchen Cabinetry Inc. wrote to us in an email. "They have $16,000 from me representing a 50 percent deposit."
Many are frustrated they can't get answers from Wood-Mode. Some are uncertain about their futures.
"After 77 years of business, the company and ownership truly regret the impact of this action to our employees, the community, and our loyal customers and suppliers," Wood-Mode said in a statement. "We are extremely appreciative of everyone’s commitment and service to Wood-Mode throughout the years."
Just two months ago, the company had shot down rumors of a possible sale or closure, with David Scarr, vice president of Human Resources, telling The Daily Item "there is no truth to the rumor."
Wood-Mode was listed among the top 10 cabinet companies in the latest FDMC 300, a listing of the top North American wood products manufacturers. The company produced semi-custom and custom frameless and frame cabinetry, under the Wood-Mode and Brookhaven brands.

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About the author
Robert Dalheim

Robert Dalheim is an editor at the Woodworking Network. Along with publishing online news articles, he writes feature stories for the FDMC print publication. He can be reached at [email protected]