Former employees of news startup The Messenger, which closed its doors suddenly Wednesday, filed a class-action lawsuit against the company Thursday.
The Messenger, a digital media company that launched in May 2023, told employees Wednesday afternoon the company would be shutting down. As of Wednesday night, readers who attempt to visit the site are only shown an email address, email@example.com.
The New York Times first reported the closing. According to the lawsuit, former employees said the report was how they found out they were no longer employed.
“Within minutes after the story broke, The Messenger confirmed to the approximately 300 employees that they were terminated effective immediately,” the suit said.
Pilar Belendez-Desha, a former senior producer for the outlet, filed the lawsuit in the Southern District of New York.
Employees were terminated without cause and without a considerable warning or written notice, which violates the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, the lawsuit said. The labor law requires most employers to provide a 60-day notification in advance of planned closings and mass layoffs.
The former employees also brought forth a second claim, that the company violated the New York WARN Act. In New York state, employers are required to provide a 90-day notification ahead of closings and mass layoffs.
The former employees hope to recover “up to 60 days wages and benefits.”
The Messenger’s founder, Jimmy Finkelstein, who previously owned The Hill, said his vision for The Messenger was a “Washington Post, Daily Mail hybrid.”
Finkelstein and the outlet’s president, Richard Beckman, promised to hire hundreds of reporters and generate $100 million in revenue through advertising and events. By the end of 2023, the organization had generated only $3 million and had $1.8 million in cash on hand, the Times reported.
The company laid off about 20 employees in early January and said it planned another round of fundraising.
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