Partial Victory Bittersweet for Laid-Off Bakery Worker at Center of Class-Action Suit
Rolf’s Patisserie in a Chicago suburb wasn’t just the place Karen Leyva worked, it was a huge part of her life. The employees were like family, greeting each other with hugs every morning, attending each other’s weddings and children’s birthday parties, getting together for barbecues and soccer games. They took great pride in the fancy, high-end cakes and other desserts made for major outlets like Whole Foods and for individual customers.
Every other weekend Leyva, 40, would treat herself with a Rolf’s cake – one of her favorites was vanilla chiffon with strawberries. A cake designer named Edgar helped give Leyva’s mother “her best birthday and Christmas ever” in December 2005, her last before passing away the next year. Leyva’s mother loved the cello, so Edgar carved a cake in the shape of the musical instrument, with a bow and details in chocolate, so life-like you almost wanted to pick it up and play it.
Part of Leyva’s job as assistant office manager, working with customers and doing hiring and a range of administrative functions, was to help customers decide what custom cakes to order. The designers and bakers came up with elaborate creations including a castle with real lights and a carousel that actually moved. Leyva would swell with pride when customers sent her personal notes of thanks.
So when Leyva and a few other employees cleaning up on Sunday December 11 went to the company’s website and saw a terse message— dated December 10—announcing that the bakery had closed, she was shocked and devastated. As I reported previously, a class-action lawsuit filed January 10 charges that Rolf’s owner Lloyd Culbertson, a former investment banker, violated the WARN Act by failing to give the 136 employees 60 days notice of the closing, or 60 days severance pay.