Mass Layoffs at UCB

"The financial hardship this is causing UCB Comedy is exponential and it is with heartfelt regret that we have had to go down this path."

Mass Layoffs at UCB

Sad news: UCB just laid off its entire theater staff and some training center employees. An email from UCBTNY artistic director Michael Hartney on Tuesday night informed the community that he had been “temporarily laid off as Artistic Director, along with all theatre staff until the theatre reopens.” He added that “a small staff at our NY and LA training centers remain,” and are working to move classes online. (UCBTLA artistic director Christine Bullen sent out an identical email.) This echoed a tweet by UCB co-founder and co-owner Matt Walsh earlier this afternoon:

Ever take an improv class over the internet. Now is the time to be online and learn too. UCB has your answer here 17, 2020

In a separate email to UCB staff, including several in the training center, Chief Financial Officer Daryl La Fountain announced “mass layoffs.” He did not specify whether any of them were temporary:

Hello Team,

It is with great sadness that I bring you the following news.....

March 17, 2020

As this pandemic continues to escalate, we at Upright Citizens Brigade have been working alongside the owners to ensure our employees, student staff, and volunteers alike are safe. We recognize that as the nation continues to issue closure’s we are all facing trying times. This truly is a time of uncertainty amidst the COVID-19 outbreak and we as a business do not have all the answers however, we are being forced to make some very difficult decisions.

Sadly, we regret to inform you that we have decided to conduct mass layoffs. This decision was not an easy one and the Company reviewed all options available before deciding to conduct these layoffs.  

Please accept this as your WARN notice that effective, Friday, March 20, 2020 your employment with either LA or NY Upright Citizens Brigade Training Centers and Theaters is terminated due to the recent outbreak of COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”). Because the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus is a natural disaster that was not reasonably foreseeable, is outside the Company’s control, and is expanding rapidly thereby requiring the Company to make this decision on short notice, the Company is providing this notice with as much advance notice as possible under these unique circumstances. As you know, nationwide there has been mandated closures through March 31, 2020. This situation is evolving and we are doing our best to balance the needs and safety of our employees and the public.

Your final wages including accrued but unused PTO will be paid via direct deposit, if applicable, on Friday, March 20, 2020 in accordance with California law. If you do not have direct deposit all checks will be mailed direct to the address listed in ADP. (NY Employees ONLY: Please note maximum PTO payout is 40 hours.)

The email goes on to provide employees with information about how to file for unemployment insurance, and reminds them of their obligation to protect UCB’s confidential information. It does not mention any severance payments. It concludes:

The financial hardship this is causing UCB Comedy is exponential and it is with heartfelt regret that we have had to go down this path.  Please know that we have appreciated your commitment to UCB Comedy.

I have reached out to Hartney and UCB’s publicist for more information; I will update this post if they respond. When I reached out to La Fountain, he said, “Do not ever call me again.”

If you’re a current or former UCB employee and want to talk, please reach out.

Header image via Travis Wise on Flickr.