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Seaport letter outlines layoffs for state Department of Labor

Mystic — A day after Mystic Seaport Museum submitted a letter to the state Department of Labor outlining its COVID-19-related layoffs, museum spokesman Dan McFadden stressed Tuesday that the Seaport is not closed permanently.

“Any impression that Mystic Seaport Museum is not going to reopen is completely wrong,” he said. “We had to reduce our workforce as a last resort. We had to do that to be in a position to reopen once it’s legal and safe to do so.”

He added that the Seaport is doing what many other museums are doing.

McFadden said he and Seaport officials have been hearing from people concerned about the museum’s future after reading a media report late Monday about the museum’s filing of a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN, letter with the state Department of Labor.

He said the museum submitted the WARN letter to comply with legal requirements regarding layoffs. “It’s something we had to do. We want our people to get unemployment insurance,” he said.

The WARN Act requires companies or organizations with more than 100 full-time workers to give a 60-day written notice of mass layoffs or plant closings. Such notice was not able to be given with the sudden outbreak of the coronavirus and order by the governor to avoid gatherings of people.

A WARN notice is required when there are layoffs of between 50 and 499 people that affect 33% of an organization’s full-time workers.

The museum’s letter, written by its Director of Human Resources Jeanne Gade, said approximately 199 employees, 68 of which are full-time, would be laid off effective Wednesday.

The letter states these layoffs “should be considered permanent, as we cannot estimate when the Museum will reopen and when we will need to increase staffing levels.”

The letter states that “Notice was given as soon as possible due to the unforeseen circumstances of a loss of business due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, the National Emergency declared by the President of the United States, the state of emergency declared by the Governor of Connecticut and the various state orders and recommendations designed to help contain the spread of COVID-19,” Gade wrote. “This pandemic has crippled the Museum’s business causing notice not to be foreseeable at the time that notice would have been required to be given.”

The museum attached to its letter a list of job positions and numbers of employees who will be laid off and pointed out museum employees are not part of a union, so bumping rights do not exist.

Last week, McFadden said the layoffs occurred across all departments.

He said Tuesday that the remaining employees, who are working reduced hours with reduced pay, will care for the museum’s collection and grounds and handle business responsibilities.

He also said the museum is launching new digital content on its website at stories.mysticseaport.org and is using video conferencing for online classes.

While Mystic Aquarium also laid off employees at the beginning of March, retaining only staff necessary to care for animals and the security of the facility, it has not filed a WARN Act letter.

“We are working daily with the Department of Labor, as well as providing health care and other benefits to those who are laid off. This is a temporary closure as a result of a declaration of emergency and Executive Order to close,” aquarium spokeswoman Dale Wolbrink wrote Tuesday in response to a question about submitting a WARN letter. “We are working to bring back all laid off employees as fast as we can and that is our priority. This is not some kind of permanent plant closure. This is a State of Emergency as a result of a disaster. We are committed to bringing people back as fast as we can and abiding by the law in doing so.”

j.wojtas@theday.com

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