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Fortunoff to employees: Westbury store may close

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Fortunoff notified employees earlier this week that it may be forced to close its Westbury flagship store and begin eliminating positions as soon as this Friday if the company is unable to find investors or a buyer, according to a letter distributed to company workers.

The Long Island jewelry and home goods chain also filed a WARN notice with the state on Monday covering 378 people, said a spokeswoman for the state Labor Department. Hempstead Town also was notified on Friday, a spokeswoman said. And its Department of Occupational Resources is expected to begin working with employees today to help with new employment or retraining.

"The company has been actively seeking additional capital or a buyer in order to delay or avoid shutting down this facility," the letter stated. "However the company has been unable to find an investor interested in supplying the necessary working capital to keep the facility operational and to date, has been unsuccessful in finding a buyer for its business."

Fortunoff, which filed for bankruptcy last week, has set a Feb. 19 deadline for bids from potential buyers and an auction date of Feb. 23.

Under the state's Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification act, or WARN, employers with at least 50 full-time employees must give workers, unions, and state and local authorities 90-day advance notice of a mass layoff or plant closing.

Federal WARN regulations require employers to give 60 days' notice. Both federal regulations and state law, which took effect Feb. 1, allow a shorter notification period for several reasons.

But employers must be able to justify the shorter time frame. The two most common defenses for not providing full notice is that it may jeopardize the company's ability to obtain financing or obtain new business, or that an unexpected event prevented the company from providing the required advance notice, said Rene Roupinian, an attorney who is counsel to Outten & Golden Llp, the Manhattan law firm representing former Steve & Barry's workers suing the bankrupt retailer for allegedly violating federal WARN laws.

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