FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Eight former Bitwise Industries employees are now part of a class action lawsuit against now-former Bitwise CEOs Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin, along with the entire board of the Fresno-based tech company.
Attorney Roger Bonakdar and Brian Whelan filed the 24-page lawsuit in the Fresno County Superior Court on Wednesday.
“The claims here are very clear, you can’t explain away wage theft,” Bonakdar, who’s representing the employees said.
The lawsuit alleges Bitwise violated California’s WARN Act when they failed to notify and give proper notice to their 900 employees, that they were being furloughed last week.
Bonakdar also said he considers these furloughs to be layoffs, as he alleged the company has no intention of bringing them back to work. He said just before the furloughs were announced, employees were switched from direct deposit to paper checks. He says those paper checks couldn’t be cashed.
Despite this, he said workers still reported to work for another week before the furlough was announced. He said during this time, the company fully knew they couldn’t pay the wages. He said as of now, those workers still haven’t been paid.
Additionally, the lawsuit also shows the company said they had $81 million in the Central Valley Community Bank just this March. Bonakdar said this information was likely misleading and was used to get a loan.
“If you are going to represent that you have $81 million in liquidity, only very recently, then how do you explain away not being able to make payroll?” he added.
He said more employees are likely going to be added to the lawsuit and said at this time they are still investigating just how troubled Bitwise’s financial situation really was.
“People have bounced rent checks, their car payment checks have bounced, they’re worried about how they’re going to get healthcare for their children because they counted on Bitwise, to get their children the care they need and now all of that has just disappeared,” Bonakdar said.
There’s not a monetary value listed in the lawsuit at this point, but Bonakdar said they are suing for lost wages, the severance pay employees should have gotten, as well as other penalties.