worker adjustment and retraining notificiation

News about the WARN Act keeps surfacing in everything from law firm closings to bakery layoffs

While I’ve touched on the subject before, the Connecticut Law Tribune this week published a longer piece that I’ve written on the basics of the act for employers, particularly those in Connecticut.  You can download the article here.  

In my view, this Act is one of the easiest for companies to comply with, and yet, time and again, we see examples of employers who do not follow its mandates.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from the piece is the fact that WARN is not a mandatory severance law but rather a mandatory notice law.  Once the notice is providing within the required timeframe to both employees and various public officials, then the company is — for the most part — off the hook here. 

 

Earlier this week, I discussed the benefits of providing notice to employees who may be affected by mass layoffs and plant closings, by complying with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.

But what exactly does the WARN Act require and who is covered? Here are some basic answers to some basic questions. As always, those who need more information should seek legal counsel and review the applicable laws.   In addition, some states have additional requirements that must be complied with; this post just discusses the WARN Act.courtesy morgue file "industry"

Who’s Covered?

Not all employers are covered. Employers who have 100 or more full-time employees are covered. But employers who have 100 or more full-time AND part-time employees who, in total, work more than 4000 hours per week are also covered.  Most governments are not covered, but some quasi-public and public entities may be covered.

When Does WARN Apply?

As I discussed in my prior post, there are two types of events that are covered  by WARN — plant closings and mass layoffs. "Employment Losses" within each of them triggers some notice requirements.  All of these terms have a definition though. 

"Plant closings" are a permanent or temporary shutdown of a "single site of employment" (though it can also be one or more facilities or operating units within a single site of employment), so long as the shutdown results in an employment loss at that site for 50 or more full-time employees during any 30-day period.

"Mass layoffs" are a reduction in force (that is also not the result of a plant closing) that results in an employment loss at a single site of employment during any 30- day period for at least 50 employees.  These 50 or more employees must also make-up at least 33 percent total employees (excluding any part-time employees). This will also be satisfied if there are at least 500 employees (excluding any part-time employees) affected by the mass layoff as well.

What Is An "Employment Loss"?

Despite its term, the term "employment loss" is fairly broad.  It means either:

  1. a termination of employment for reasons other than a discharge for cause, voluntary departure, or retirement,
  2. a layoff longer than six months (which indicates that the employee may return after the "layoff", or 
  3. a reduction in hours of more than 50 percent during each month of any six-month period.

What Notice Is Required? 

A WARN notice must be given to each employee at least 60 days before a plant closing or mass layoff.  However, if there is a union, the notice must be given to the union representative of the affected employees. 

In Connecticut, notice must also be provided to the Connecticut dislocated worker unit (see below) and the chief elected official of the local government where the closing or layoff is occurring. 

The Website for the Connecticut Department of Labor has some more specifics on the notice required:

Written notification should be printed on company letterhead, signed by the authorized employer representative, and addressed to:

Rapid Response Unit
Connecticut Department of Labor
200 Folly Brook Boulevard
Wethersfield, CT 06109-1114

This notification should include: the name and address of the employment site where the plant closing or mass lay off will occur; the date(s) of proposed closing or mass layoff; the number of affected workers, and address of their collective bargaining representative and chief elected officer if applicable; and, the name, address, and telephone number of the employer representative to contact regarding the closing or mass layoff.

Interestingly enough, the DOL site also encourages employers to seek legal counsel regarding the notices. 

As with lots of federal laws, there are some exceptions and some tricky questions that arise such as what happens when you have multiple layoffs within a short time that don’t trigger WARN individually but would collectively, and what happens in situations that are not foreseeable (plant burns down and must therefore close immediately). 

The U.S. Department of Labor has some additional guidance on this issue for those types of situations in this employer’s guide.