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All About WARN Act

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During his years of practice, Yuriy has concentrated in litigation and real estate transactions as his areas of expertise.
warn definition

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act or WARN Act is a labor law in the United States enacted in 1989. This Act ensures that certain workers are given advanced notice if their employer is planning on closing or conducting mass layoffs. The WARN Act lays out certain requirements for companies and provides information about exceptions and repercussions for violations of the Act. If you believe that you have lost your job due to closings and mass layoffs, you should contact…

The WARN Act lays out certain requirements for companies and provides information about exceptions and repercussions for violations of the Act. If you believe that you have lost your job due to closings and mass layoffs, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.

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WARN Definition

WARN stands for “Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification.” This Act which became effective in the United States on February 4, 1989, requires employers to give their employees at least 60 days of notice of a plant closing or mass layoffs. This allows employees to look for a new jobs and begin retraining before they are unemployed.

The WARN Act applies to employers with one hundred or more employees. This does not include employees who work less than six months or part-time employees who average less than 20 hours per week. All employees are covered by the Act whether they are paid hourly or salaried. Managerial and supervisory employees are also covered, but business partners are not.

Companies subject to the WARN Act include:

  • Private for-profit companies
  • Non-profit companies
  • Public entities
  • Quasi-public entities

Federal, state, and local government entities are not subject to this Act.

Circumstances of WARN Preparation

There are several triggering events under the WARN Act which require a covered employer to provide their employees with a written WARN Notice. These events include mass layoffs, plant closures, temporary layoffs, and a reduction in hours.

Mass Layoffs

Under the WARN Act, a mass layoff occurs when:

  • At least fifty employees are laid off within 30 days, and the laid-off workers make up at least one-third of the workforce
  • Five hundred employees are laid off no matter the size of the workforce
  • An entire work site is closed, and at least fifty employees are laid off within 30 days

These layoff numbers do not count employees who work part-time.

Plant Closing

If a covered employer permanently or temporarily closes a facility or employment site and the closure affects at least fifty workers, the WARN Act will be triggered. In the case of a plant closing, employers must provide their employees with written notice of the pending closure.

Temporary Layoffs

A temporary layoff is any layoff that will exceed six months. For the WARN Act to be triggered by a temporary layoff, the layoff must meet the criteria of a plant closing or mass layoff.

A layoff that was initially supposed to be less than six months but is extended also qualifies as a triggering event under the WARN Act. In this scenario, the covered employer is required to provide the employee with written notice when the need for the layoff extension becomes known.

Reduction in Hours

The WARN Act is triggered if there is a reduction in work hours for fifty or more full-time workers. The reduction must be by 50% or more for each month in any six-month period. Even if the reduction in hours is temporary, the WARN Act is still triggered.

WARN Act Requirements

The WARN Act has several requirements that a covered employer must follow.

  1. A covered employer must provide notice to affected employees, the state’s rapid response dislocated worker unit, and the chief elected official of the local government where the plant closing or mass layoff occurs.
  2. Employers DO NOT have to provide notice to individual employees if the employees are unionized.
  3. Notice must be in written form and provided to any employees who worked more than six months in the past twelve months and average more than twenty hours per week.
  4. The notice must be provided at least 60 days before the plant closing or layoffs take place.
  5. There is no particular format or template for the notice, but it needs to be specific. It should contain specific dates, the employment site, whether the event is permanent or temporary, and the job titles and positions affected.
  6. The notice can be delivered by any reasonable method.

If employers are unsure of WARN Act requirements or who must be notified if an event triggers the WARN Act, they are encouraged to seek legal counsel.

Some states, like New York, have mini-WARN Acts and additional notification requirements. For example, in New York, employers are required to provide 90 days’ advance written notice to certain agencies and parties. If you have questions about the federal WARN Act or your state’s WARN Act, it is important to reach out to a local attorney. At Moshes Law P.C., our attorneys are well versed in New York employment law and can guide you through the complicated requirements of the WARN Act.

Act Exceptions

There are several exceptions laid out in the WARN Act. These exceptions include faltering companies, unforeseeable business circumstances, and natural disasters.

Faltering company. A company that is actively seeking capital or business to avoid a plant closing and in good faith believes that a notice would hinder its ability to obtain funding does not have to provide a WARN Notice to employees.

Unforeseeable business circumstances. Sometimes, closing or layoffs are reasonably unforeseeable, and employers do not have 60 days to provide their employees’ notice. A sudden or unexpected event that is outside the employer’s control, like a strike or termination of a big contract, will provide the covered employer with a valid exception to the WARN Act.

Natural disaster. Similar to an unforeseeable business circumstance, if a plant closes due to a natural disaster like a flood or earthquake, the employer has a valid exception.

In addition to exceptions, there are some events that do not trigger the WARN Act, including:

  • Closing of a temporary facility or completion of a temporary project if employees were hired with the understanding that employment would be temporary.
  • Closures due to strikes or lockouts
  • Layoffs that do not meet the WARN Act thresholds

Violations of WARN

If a covered employer violates the WARN Act, they could be subject to legal liability and civil penalties. In the event of a violation, qualifying employees could be entitled to back pay and benefits for each day of violation for up to 60 days. The employer is also subject to $500 in civil penalties for each day they failed to provide notice to the local government.

Employees who have been affected by an employer who violates the WARN Act have legal standing to file a lawsuit in federal court against the employer.

Get Help from Professional Lawyers Right Now

If you have questions about the WARN Act, whether you are a covered employer or an employee who has lost their job, you need an experienced lawyer on your team. At Moshes Law, P.C., our attorneys specialize in employment law and can help educate and guide you through any legal proceedings that involve the federal WARN Act or New York’s mini-WARN Act.

Don’t hesitate to contact us today for a free consultation where you can sit down with one of our lawyers and go over your case.

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