Preliminary settlement reached in Vista Window Company suit

LORDSTOWN — A preliminary settlement appears to have been reached in a class action lawsuit against now defunct Vista Window Company, which abruptly closed its doors and shut out employees in mid-January.

A motion in the case filed by ex-employee Condie Stell of Austintown shortly after losing his job states negotiations that began in March led to the agreement that calls for 110 employees and their attorneys to share $682,289.

The court still has to sign off on the proposed agreement, which attorneys already have asked the court to do.

Stell filed the lawsuit Jan. 25 in federal court in Youngstown claiming Vista violated the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act’s requirement of giving its employees at least 60 days advance written notice of the mass layoff.

Also named was Portland, Maine-based Paradigm Operating Company, which the lawsuit states bought Vista in 2017.

The company posted a notice to the door of its production facility, 1707 Henn Parkway, on Jan. 14 stating it had “ceased all operations.” The same day a WARN notice with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services was filed stating Vista was a “faltering company” that was trying to attract new capital or business in order to remain open and “giving notice would have ruined” those efforts.

The company laid off 23 employees in December and 87 more with the January announcement, the notice states.

The proposed agreement calls for the money to be distributed no later than Aug. 1 or five business days after the settlement is OK’d by the court.

Stell would receive $5,000 as a service payment for being class representative; the attorneys would receive one-third of the gross amount, minus any member who opts-out, Stell’s service payment and litigation expenses, which are capped at $5,000; and the balance would be distributed to the other members.

The net settlement represents pay and benefits, plus interest, for the 60-day period less time they may have worked during the period and their share of other lawsuit fees and taxes.

The WARN act, approved by Congress in 1988, provides employees who claim they were not properly notified of the mass layoff the ability to seek back pay and benefits for up to 60 days.

It was put into place to give workers sufficient time to find other work or retraining before losing their jobs.