Ex-Messenger Employees Sue The News Outlet Following Dramatic Closure

The Messenger laid off its 300 employees Wednesday, less than a year after its launch.

Some of the 300 employees of the now-defunct news start-up The Messenger on Thursday sued the company for failing to notify them in advance about impending layoffs, a day after the outlet’s dramatic closure.

Employees learned the company would close down from a report by The New York Times Wednesday, saying the company was about to run out of cash. Just minutes later, they allegedly received formal notice of their termination.

Plaintiff Pilar Belendez-Desha, a senior producer at the outlet based in New York, brought a class lawsuit in the Southern District of New York “on behalf of herself and other similarly situated former employees who worked for [The Messenger] and were terminated without cause.”

Belendez-Desha cites the state’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which requires businesses to give advance warning to employees about upcoming layoffs to allow them to seek alternate positions. Specifically, they allege the company did not provide them “60 days advance written notice of their terminations,” as stipulated in the WARN Act.

“Plaintiff and all similarly situated employees seek to recover up to 60 days wages and benefits,” the lawsuit adds.

The website’s founder and CEO, Jimmy Finkelstein, told The New York Times last year one of the missions of the outlet was to offer Americans a centrist alternative to national mainstream media, adding that he wanted their work to resemble what big news brands like “60 Minutes” and “Vanity Fair” offered their audience.

Finkelstein’s endeavor ended up being short-lived after the company burned through its $50 million initial funding and the CEO’s efforts to buy more time, including making an earlier round of layoffs to cut costs and meeting with right-wing investors at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, according to CNN, failed to deliver results.

“Over the past few weeks, literally until earlier today, we exhausted every option available and have endeavored to raise sufficient capital to reach profitability,” he wrote in an email to staff Wednesday. “Unfortunately, we have been unable to do so, which is why we haven’t share the news with you until now. This is truly the last thing I wanted, and I am deeply sorry.”

The outlet’s journalists are also unable to access their work on the website, which now only features the company’s logo and a generic email address.

The Messenger’s sudden closure adds to the onslaught of terrible news for the news industry last month. Over 530 journalists were laid off in January from outlets including NBC News, Business Insider and The Los Angeles Times, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas figures cited by Politico.

February doesn’t look too promising, either. On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal laid off about 20 members of its Washington, D.C., bureau, announcing a restructuring.

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