Family Dollar is closing an Arkansas distribution facility where more than 1,000 rodents were found earlier this year, forcing the recall of items from hundreds of stores, the company said Wednesday.
The company said it plans to close the facility in West Memphis by the end of October, affecting approximately 300 employees.
"Like most companies, we regularly assess our operational footprint to ensure we are running our business in the most effective and responsible way. As a result of that process, we determined the nearly 30-year-old facility in West Memphis would not be adequate to allow us to continue serving the needs and requirements of our stores and customers served by the distribution center," Randy Guiler, vice president of investor relations for Dollar Tree, Family Dollar's parent company, said in a statement.
The closure comes about three weeks after Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed a lawsuit April 28 accusing Family Dollar Stores Inc. and Dollar Tree of selling products that were potentially hazardous or contaminated because of exposure to a rodent infestation at the distribution center in West Memphis. The lawsuit accused the companies of deceiving consumers, negligence and engaging in a conspiracy that allowed the infestation to occur.
The lawsuit, filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court, stated that Family Dollar made significant profits while knowingly exposing consumers to potentially hazardous or contaminated products by allowing and failing to prevent the massive rodent infestations and unsanitary conditions at the distribution center.
The lawsuit seeks punitive damages, restitution and civil penalties through the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
The lawsuit followed an announcement in February from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which said it had inspected the distribution facility following a consumer complaint. Inside the building, inspectors said they found live rodents, dead rodents in "various states of decay," rodent feces, dead birds and bird droppings.
After fumigating the facility, more than 1,100 dead rodents were recovered, officials said. Family Dollar issued a temporary recall and closed 404 stores in six states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee -- so numerous products that had been at the facility could be removed from shelves. Family Dollar said in February it was not aware of any illnesses related to the recall.
The products included human foods, animal foods, cosmetics, medical devices and over-the-counter medications.
Locations in Arkansas included stores in Camden, Little Rock, North Little Rock, Hot Springs and Pine Bluff.
Asked for her response to the closing of the West Memphis distribution center, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge expressed concern for the families of the workers losing their jobs and dismay over the company's decision.
"Family Dollar is punishing hundreds of hardworking Arkansas families instead of cleaning up the company's own, illegal business practices that put their employees and consumers at risk," Rutledge said through a spokeswoman. "Rather than eliminating jobs, Family Dollar should eliminate deceptive and dangerous conduct."
Guiler said the company is offering severance to eligible employees, as well as outplacement and employee assistance programs. The building will discontinue shipping to stores before the end of June, and a transfer of inventory to other distribution centers will be completed in August.
Information for this article was contributed by Andrew DeMillo of The Associated Press and by Stephen Simpson and Ryan Tarinelli of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.