The Insitu Corporation’s refusal to release the number of employees who have been or are in the process of being laid off as part of Insitu’s restructuring of its business is odd. We understand Insitu CEO Esina Alic’s concern about not wanting to cause an unnecessary panic in the community, but hiding the impact of her decisions from the community is not the kind of out-front corporate leadership this community has been used to over the years.

Longtime members of this community who have seen all types of leaders come and go want leaders who get in front of the news, be it good, bad or indifferent, when that news affects the community, not those who lead from behind, talking only through spokespeople, who refuse to engage the local media to explain why a decision is necessary for the good of the company.

Esina Alic is telling this community and the rest of the world that it is none of our business as to what Insitu is doing to transform itself into a more agile company to meet the challenges of a more competitive marketplace for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), sometimes referred to, almost pejoratively, as drones.

Insitu is holding the unemployment and restructuring information close at hand, treating it as proprietary information, not wanting to give away potentially damaging intelligence to its competitors, or so we’ve been advised by a company spokesperson.

The problem with this approach of trying to cover up the ugly details of Insitu’s restructuring plan is that this information will get out one way or another. We are continuing to work our sources and dig for the facts of the matter because this community has a right to know what is happening at one of its major employers, one that many assumed was doing just fine financially. That assumption was grossly wrong.

Insitu leadership elected to comply with the spirit of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988 but insists Insitu was not subject to the letter of the WARN Act because it was letting go between 49 and 500 employees, or less than 33% of its workforce; thus, this action did not activate the WARN Act’s requirements for an employer to take certain mandatory steps, such as informing the State of Washington and assisting permanently terminated employees with their transitions into new jobs or retraining programs. Had Insitu filed a WARN Act notice with the Washington Employment Security Department, we would know how many people are being affected by the layoff notice.

Nonetheless, Insitu’s leadership says it is committed to doing everything within its power to provide laid-off workers with access to a range of services and resources to help them get back to work. We could say this is an admirable and proper response to its laid-off employees during the company’s market-driven course correction. It is. But we’ll also say it was morally imperative for Insitu to treat its terminated employees with the respect and dignity they deserve and the WARN Act guarantees.

Losing a job is a traumatic experience. Employers don’t help themselves from a publc relations standpoint when they fail to explain themselves and alleviate community concerns about their company’s future here. We hope Insitu will be more transparent in the days ahead. SB

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