FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – The City of Fresno is trying to take action to support Bitwise employees after the company furloughed all workers on Monday.
According to officials, the furlough would be considered a violation of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN), which requires companies with over 75 employees to provide a 60-day notice to their employees and to the State and local government.
“It gives us the time to respond and get resources to help employees in the transition,” said Mike Karbassi, Fresno County Councilmember of District 2. “And I firmly believe Jake Soberal and Bitwise have robbed this city of that time.”
Officials said that a violation of the WARN Act makes the employer liable for an amount equal to payback and benefits up to 60 days per employee, and that civil penalties could go up to $500 per day.
“We looked into whether the City would have standing to pursue some of these claims for these employees,” said Andrew Janz, Fresno County City Attorney. “The city’s not in a position legally, or frankly ethically, to do that.”
The City announced on Thursday a June 9 “rapid response” resource fair for Bitwise employees that would help lay out available options from unemployment to healthcare resources, with a job fair that would likely come next.
The Fresno City officials took the opportunity to call out the founder of Bitwise.
“So I can’t comment if anyone’s criminal, but I can say in the case of Mr. Soberal, he’s very irresponsible,” said Karbassi.
Officials said that the Fresno City Council members may decide next week if they will officially end the partnership with Bitwise.
“Now, for obvious reasons, we are bringing forward an item for the next council meeting to terminate this agreement. This resolution also ceases any further business with Bitwise and any of its affiliated entities until the present financial situation has been resolved,” said Karbassi.
In a letter from Wednesday, Mayor Jerry Dyer said Bitwise hasn’t paid its business taxes since September of 2021.