This is bad: The headquarters of DirectBuy, a home improvement and furnishings club in Merrillville, Ind., recently took over its DirectBuy franchise in Orlando, Fla. after revoking the franchise from its owner.
This is just plain wrong: The 30 employees of DirectBuy Orlando have currently gone without pay for at least the June 1 – 15 pay period, and will likely not receive paychecks for June 15 – 23 either.
“It hurts horribly,” said a marketing associate who asked not to be named because he is still employed by DirectBuy Orlando. “People are getting evicted from their homes.”
This began June 24, when employees arrived to find a corporate representative on site. The rep informed all employees that the franchise of the owner, Brian Cohen, had been revoked and that Cohen would no longer be working for the company.
“The owner set us up to lose as much money as he could before he left without a word,” said another female employee at DirectBuy Orlando.
“Not an ‘I’m sorry guys’ or anything that would justify him being a human. Instead he was there one day … and then like a thief in the night he not only left without a word but left someone else to do his dirty work and tell us the bad news.”
The marketing associate believes that Cohen had previously been required to attend drug counseling by DirectBuy, and that evidence now points to some type of theft by Cohen.
“They [Corporate] had definitely been looking at him for a while. There was money missing from his accounts.”
But he also claims that the representative told employees that DirectBuy corporate headquarters would assume responsibility for the payroll “from that day [June 24] forward.”
That’s not what happened.
There’s no direct confirmation, but it seems clear that DirectBuy corporate headquarters has chosen to “honor the contract” it signed with Cohen – which would make Cohen legally responsible for the employee payments.
According to our source, corporate representatives had at one point asked DirectBuy Orlando employees to hold off on legal action regarding the matter while they evaluated the payment situation.
“I think they were trying to make it right, but we came back [after the five-day period that Corporate had requested] and they said ‘We can’t do anything.’ Then they gave us the OK to pursue legal action.”
That legal action is in the works at Morgan & Morgan, an Orlando law office that has handled some fairly high-profile cases. Currently, attorney John Morgan is representing Zenaida Gonzalez in a civil action vs. Casey Anthony.
The DirectBuy class-action suit will include nearly all of the DirectBuy Orlando employees. It’s not clear yet who the specific defendants will be in the case.
“I just want my money,” said another employee who asked to remain nameless — a lead generator for DirectBuy Orlando.
He tried depositing June 15 paycheck the day he got it.
“It came back NSF,” he said. “So I carried the other [July 1] one over to the owner’s [Cohen’s] bank, and they wouldn’t touch it.”
Our sources say that DirectBuy has since paid Orlando consumers back about $250,000 that the franchise had apparently collected but had never delivered on.
But while the employee payments hang in limbo, the impact for DirectBuy Orlando employees is all too immediate.
“Brian owes [me] close to $4,000. I’m lucky because our landlady is a very close friend,” said our source.
“I have to cover my losses,” said one employee, a single mother of two who works two jobs and estimates her losses at $1,600.
“And the hours I could have spent playing and spending time with my kids were gone for nothing. I went under big time. And for someone to stand in my face and tell me ‘I’m sorry, there is nothing we can do’ … was not only unfair but it was painful.”
“Especially when that money was for my babies.”