Federal Protection for Workers Experiencing Layoffs
Being laid off can be a daunting experience for workers. As such, federal protections have been put into place that protect workers in specific instances through the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (or “WARN Act”).
You may be protected by WARN if your job loss occurs as part of:
- A plant closing—where your employer shuts down a facility or operating unit within a single site of employment and lays off at least 50 full-time workers;
- A mass layoff—where your employer lays off either between 50 and 499 full-time workers at a single site of employment and that number is 33% of the number of full-time workers at the single site of employment; or
- A situation where your employer lays off 500 or more full-time workers at a single site of employment.
The federal WARN Act gives employees the right to advance notice of a plant closing or large-scale layoff.
You are entitled to WARN notice if the above conditions apply to your situation and you:
- Are terminated from your employment, but not if you voluntarily quit, retire, or are discharged for cause;
- Are laid off for more than 6 months; or
- Have your regular hours of work reduced by more than half during each month of a 6-month period.
EMPLOYEES NOT PROTECTED BY WARN
You are not protected by the WARN Act if you are considered any of the following:
- Strikers, or workers who have been locked out in a labor dispute;
- Workers working on temporary projects or facilities of the business who clearly understand the temporary nature of the work when hired;
- Business partners, consultants, or contract employees assigned to the business but who have a separate employment relationship with another employer and are paid by that other employer, or who are self-employed; and
- Regular federal, state, or local government employees.
RECEIPT OF NOTICE OF A LAYOFF OR PLANT CLOSING
With some exceptions, you must receive a written notice 60 calendar days before the layoff or plant closing. You are entitled to receive this notice even if you are a part-time worker or you
work at another site and will lose your job due to this layoff or plant closing.
WHAT THE NOTICE MUST CONTAIN
The notice you receive from your employer must include the following information:
- An explanation of whether the layoff or closing is permanent or temporary
- of 6 months or less;
- The date of layoff or closing and the date of your separation (Your employer has some leeway in predicting the dates on which workers will be separated. Your employer may give you notice that you will be separated within a two-week, or 14-day, period after a certain date. If your employer chooses to use a 14-day period, he/she must give you notice 60 days before the first day of the 14-day period.);
- An explanation of bumping rights, if they exist; and
- Name and contact information for a person in the company who can provide additional information.
NOTICE THAT DOES NOT SATISFY WARN REQUIREMENTS
A verbal announcement at an all-employees’ meeting or smaller employees/supervisor staff meeting does not meet the WARN Act requirements. In addition, preprinted notices regularly included in each employee’s paycheck or pay envelope or press releases to the media do not meet the requirements.
IF YOUR RIGHTS ARE VIOLATED
If your WARN rights have been violated, you should consult with an experienced employment attorney. WARN includes the right to attorney fees if you win, which gives attorneys an extra incentive to accept a good case.