Restaurant Chain Reports 200 Local Temporary Layoffs

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted May 6, 2020
Editor's note: This version of the story clarifies that the layoffs were reported to the state as temporary and not permenant layoffs.

A major restaurant chain has reduced employees' hours due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry, cuts recently reported to the state through a round of temporary layoffs.

The company, however, has not had permenant layoffs and does not currently plan any, said Elizabeth Watts, director of media and community relations for Bloomin’ Brands Inc., the restaurant company that operates Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill and more.

OS Restaurant Services LLC, doing business as Bloomin’ Brands Inc., reported the reduced hours through some local temporary layoffs with 102 reported for Carrabba's at 15 Van Campen Blvd. and 87 reported at the Outback Steakhouse at 302 S. College Road, according to the state.

Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) reports with the N.C. Department of Commerce are used to report mass layoffs, permanent or temporary.

"WARN is not limited to the end of employment but also applies to other changes in circumstances," Watts stated in an email. "In our case, this was the reduction of hours due to dining room closures. Therefore, we were required to send the legal notice."

Some employees are working in our restaurants, which are still open for take out and delivery, she said.

For employees who’ve had their hours reduced, Watts said, "we have provided relief pay for six weeks, and we assess our ability to continue to do so every two weeks. We are also covering 100% of the cost of benefits during this time. As dining rooms re-open, we are recalling them back to work."

The cuts were reported along with more than 4,100 temporary layoffs in North Carolina documented by the state's WARN reports.

In a company letter to the state, Bloomin’ Brands said the company has "significantly reduced the number of working hours for the vast majority of its restaurant employees. While the Company has not yet terminated the employment of any restaurant employee, and does not have current plans to terminate the employment of any restaurant employee, the Company believes the sudden and unexpected reduction of hours could constitute a layoff within the meaning of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification ('WARN') Act ..."

The COVID-19 impacts are expected at restaurants nationally, stated the letter. 

In April, another major restaurant chain, Hooters, reported 30 local permanent layoffs, part of more than 400 statewide.

Other companies with WARN notices reported in New Hanover County include Enterprise Holdings with 233 permanent layoffs, part of nearly 900 statewide. Precision Hydraulic Cylinders had one local layoff.

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