With BBDO Detroit Closing, Severance Issues Arise

By Kiran Aditham 

Our original item about BBDO Detroit closing provoked a deluge of comments, debates and slagging as we expected. But one of the more intriguing comments to stick out from the maelstrom came from someone appropriately calling themselves “read this…” who touched on the severance issue affecting the agency’s soon-to-be former employees. The commenter, who is either directly familiar with the issue or has been boning up on his/her employment law says:

“…Few current employees will be receiving ANY severance pay at the end of the contract. Hiding behind the rules of WARN, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, BBDO is cruelly denying any severance to employees with less than 13 years of full service. They can legally do this because they have notified employees of the intent to close the agency 11 weeks ahead of the closure, instead of the 8 week minimum required by the law. Had they waited three more weeks, a larger percentage of employees would’ve received a severance. This sleight of hand was promoted as ‘a moral obligation to give our people as much notice as possible to plan for their futures.’


“Of course, BBDO is not legally precluded from offering additional severance to all the current employees who have worked above and beyond the call of duty during the last 12 months, including all who took an unpaid furlough. They’ve just chosen not to reward those people for their sacrifices and loyalty. That an agency the size of BBDO and a network the size of Omnicom can so callously leave their ‘valued employees’ without as much as a week’s severance says more about the leadership than any quotes from the PR flacks ever could.”

We checked the WARN fact sheet and here’s what it says with respect to mass layoffs:

“A covered employer must give notice if there is to be a mass layoff which does not result from a plant closing, but which will result in an employment loss at the employment site during any 30-day period for 500 or more employees, or for 50-499 employees if they make up at least 33% of the employer’s active workforce. Again, this does not count employees who have worked less than 6 months in the last 12 months or employees who work an average of less than 20 hours a week for that employer. These latter groups, however, are entitled to notice.”

Anyhow, PR has responded with the following statement regarding severance:

“We are closing the BBDO Detroit office and have made the decision to give our people as much notice as we can so that they can plan for their futures. We are going to find jobs for as many of them as we can within BBDO Worldwide and Omnicom agencies. We are providing outplacement counseling, and we will be flexible so that they can attend interviews. By doing it in this way, no one will receive less money than if they had been laid off without this notice. In fact, 263 people will receive more money, and everyone will also receive two extra months of healthcare for themselves and their families that they would not otherwise have had.”

More: “BBDO, Chrysler to Call it a Day in 2010?