Just 2 1/2 years ago Vision Solar was touted as an amazing New Jersey success story, as they celebrated unprecedented sales growth, their new headquarters in Washington Township and plans to add 1,000 jobs to its workforce.
But less than two weeks ago the company furloughed all of their employees. This news was shared to employees via email, which was sent by Vison Solar CEO Jon Seibert.
“We are placing the entire organization on a mandatory furlough. By definition a furlough is a temporary pause of paid employment. For our staff this means that for the time being, no one is to report to the office or work on projects for vision solar”Vison Solar CEO Jon Seibert – in an email to all employees
The timing of the e-mail was less than a week after the Thanksgiving holiday.
The CEO states that expected funding did not come through, in order to keep payroll funded. Separately the company has been facing strong scrutiny and lawsuits from several State Attorney General offices related to their business practices.
So I’ll be up front and say this may not be my normal type of story for 42Freeway, and it’s not something I want to make a consistent part of my coverage universe. My one-man show cant be everyone’s activist.
But Vision Solar does have a large headquarters building on the Black Horse Pike (multiple buildings) which is not fully being utilized right now, and they had also previously signed on to take half of the former Burlington “Coat Factory” space on the Black Horse Pike, which now seems was cancelled.
But it’s honestly a bit amazing to me that when this company was flying high two years ago they got plenty of press coverage from local media, and now that they’ve furloughed all employees… the seemed to have slipped completely under the radar.
It seems not one New Jersey based employee thought to reach out to any of the area news agencies to let them know this had happened?
I only see one news article on the furlough of employees, and that is a news station in Florida!
Additionally New Jersey passed the WARN act earlier this year which requires large employers (100 or more employees) to provide notice to employees in advance of a layoff or reduction in force. Failure to give advance notice typically results in the employer having to pay additional wages to the impacted employees.
New Jersey maintains a very easy to follow list of companies who have submitted information to the WARN act, and Vision Solar is not listed. (PDF)
It seems they had many hundreds of employees especially considering their expansion nationwide, but it’s not easy to pinpoint exactly what their New Jersey numbers were for this year.
I see commentary from them in prior press releases “Doubled our staff… added 150 employees”
A year ago a Washington Township Facebook page shared a Vision Solar press release (now deleted) where the Facebook caption stated they were adding 240 more jobs to Washington Township.
And the most telling evidence of how large Vision Solar became is this commentary on Linked-In from their VP Talent Acquisition lead.
As the Vice President of Talent Acquisition at Vision Solar LLC, I lead a team of 20 recruiters to hire and onboard over 1600 new employees in 2022, with a cost per hire of under $1300.VP Talent Acquisition – Vision Solar
Twenty recruiters is a huge staffing effort and it does clearly say “onboard over 1600 new employees” just last year!
So it does seem that as recent as just year, Vision Solar had 1,600 employees… which actually should trigger the Federal WARN act also.
I’ll add that last year I actually visited the Blackwood headquarters because I was trying to get details on what they were planning on using the former Burlington Coat Factory space for, and at that time the entire headquarters parking area was completely overflowing with cars. There was literally no place to park and then when I got up to the building to talk to someone I could see into the large open office space and that also was filled with employees.
In my visit today there were about 6 cars in the front parking lot.
So again, it seems like a large number of people were impacted by this sudden furlough of employees… yet no one knows about it.
The CEO’s e-mail to employees goes on to say..
Over the past several weeks we had been working day and night with our lenders in order to properly fund the business and until today (the day of the e-mail) had every reason to believe the lenders would advance the necessary funds. Unfortunately our lenders have unexpectedly delayed the funding which has caused a major decline in our business and our ability to fund projects and now payrollVison Solar CEO Jon Seibert – in an email to all employees
The CEO says they are continuing to work with their primary lenders and a private equity firm, with hopes to rebuild the organization and bring the employees back to work.
CEO Siebert clarifies that employees have the opportunity to seek other employment or seek unemployment benefits.
On a related note, I spoke with Washington Township Councilman Peter Del Borrello who says he was able to speak directly with a Vision Solar representative at the Blackwood office. The response he was given matches the email commentary, that Vision Solar thought additional financing was locked in, and it then did not come through.
Pete asks that any Washington Township resident who was impacted by the Vision Solar furlough, can reach him at his office.. and he will work to find them an necessary assistance they need.
The Spring 2021 press release was a celebration of their new Blackwood headquarters.
They had just come off a very successful 2020 reaching revenue of $100 million and they had an expected target of $150 million for the end of 2021.
They stated they would add more than 600 jobs to its workforce, chiefly in New Jersey. They were also adding offices in Connecticut, Arizona, Texas and two additional locations in Florida just in 2021… and targeting Puerto Rico in 2022
Vision Solar expected to add more than 1,000 green jobs to the region by the end of 2022.
“Our dedication to the community is underscored by the hundreds of high paying jobs that Vision Solar is set to create,” said Blackwood born and raised Jonathan Seibert, Vision Solar chief executive officer. “Many of these jobs will be based out of our Blackwood headquarters and provide our employees with an exciting new career path.”
Things seem to change as part of their national expansion efforts.
In March of this year, the Connecticut State Attorney General Sued Vision Solar “Over Unfair and Deceptive Sales, Violations of Home Improvement Act:
This action was based on “more than a dozen consumer complaints regarding predatory high-pressure sales tactics, misrepresentations about financing and tax credits, and unpermitted work that left homeowners saddled with nonfunctioning systems and unaffordable loans”
In April national newspaper USA Today covered a lawsuit which was filed against Vision Solar, in the US District Court of New Jersey.
“According to the lawsuit, Vision Solar would often fail to obtain the proper permits before installing the panels, leaving homeowners paying for a system that wasn’t connected to the power grid. Other times, salespeople would allegedly mislead customers about the potential savings.”
In June, the Federal Department of Justice filed a complaint against Solar Xchange (telemarketer) and Vision Solar, for using robocall techniques to place tens of millions of calls to people on the federal Do Not Call Registry.
Over 150,000 different phone numbers were called over 50 times each!
In July, the Arizona Attorney General sued Vision Solar and Solar Xchange ” in connection with unlawful telemarketing sales calls and misrepresentations relating to the sale and installation of residential solar panels in Arizona and beyond.”
On December 4th, the Florida Attorney General announced legal action against Vision Solar “Vision Solar sold solar panel systems to hundreds of consumers, allegedly promising certain solar-energy benefits and fast timelines for project completion”
Coverage at WFTV9 says there were over 180 Florida resident complaints filed against Vision Solar.
Consider that most of this likely took place in just a few short years.
At least one class action suit has been filed
A Facebook group was created for customers and employees to connect “Victims of Vision Solar” (Facebook)
Links and Location
Vision Solar – Headquarters
511 Black Horse Pike
Blackwood, NJ 08012