Investigators are currently looking in to claims that a Minnesota trucking company which suddenly closed its doors just before Thanksgiving may have reincarnated under a new name in an attempt to avoid paying money it owed to its drivers.
In a statement published at the beginning of December, Lt. Governor Tina Smith, announced that the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry would be opening an investigation into Lakeville Motor Express. LME had suddenly and unexpectedly laid off all of its workers and drivers.
“Right before Thanksgiving, over 90 Minnesotans working for Lakeville Motor Express found out the company was closing its doors, and they wouldn’t be getting their final paycheck,” said the statement from Lt. Gov. Smith. “This is called wage theft, and it’s the same thing as stealing. These families earned their wages fair and square, it’s wrong not to pay them, and we won’t tolerate it.”
Recently though, investigators have started to look in to claims that not only did LME illegally withhold employee back wages and benefits, but that they may have reopened under a new name with the same equipment, managers, and even some of the same clients.
According to Work Day Minnesota, the president of Teamsters Local 120 chapter says that LME was shut down and absorbed into the previously-existing Finish Line Express.
It wasn’t done overnight or for a suddenly-occurring problem either. Teamster officials allege that it was done deliberately with plenty of preparation and forethought to avoid paying as much money to their drivers as possible.
There is a law in Minnesota requiring any company with more than 100 employees to notify the state and their workers 60 days before closing down. Since LME had more than 100 employees, they slowly moved over office staff to Finish Line in order to bring their number down below 100, then suddenly shut the door. The closure was timed so that drivers weren’t paid for the previous two weeks of work. Drivers missed out on thousands of dollars that they were owed for work already performed.
Multiple lawsuits have already been filed against LME, but former LME executives claim that there is no money left with which to pay their former drivers.
Protests have erupted in front of Finish Line Express offices, where protestors say they see their old bosses going to work every day. Management at Finish Line Express denies any connection to LME.