What are my rights during layoffs and plant closings?

What are my rights during layoffs and plant closings

When people lose their jobs because of layoffs, they often have multiple concerns about their benefits, finding new employment and their finances while they are unemployed. People who are laid off from their jobs have help available to them via unemployment compensation. The former employers also have certain legal obligations. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler believe that it is important for workers to understand what their legal rights are in the event of layoffs.

Final paychecks

A majority of laid-off workers have money as their primary concern. People are entitled to receive their final checks within the time limits established by state laws. In both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, employers must give the final paycheck to laid-off workers on their next scheduled paydays. While no specific laws require employers in either state to offer vacation time, many do. In New Jersey, accrued vacation time must also be paid on the final paycheck unless the employer has a written policy stating that it will not be paid when the person leaves. In Pennsylvania, employers must likewise pay for vacation time on the final paychecks if their companies have policies in place to do so.

Severance pay

In general, employees who are laid off from their jobs do not have automatic severance pay rights. In New Jersey, however, workers who are part of a mass layoff or who are laid off because of a termination of operations may be entitled to one week of severance pay for each year of work at the business. An attorney at Swartz Swidler may advise you about whether or not you might be entitled to receive severance pay. Employees who work for employers who have regularly offered severance pay to workers in the past may also be entitled to recover them.


Workers who have health insurance coverage through their jobs have legal rights to continue with these benefits for 18 months beyond their termination dates. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act offers employees and their dependents the option to continue with their health insurance for a time following the loss of their jobs. However, the employees will be responsible for paying the total cost of their health care at the group rate that their former employers negotiated.

Notice Requirements

Federal law requires larger employers to provide employees with 60 days notice before a mass layoff through a law called the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN. Employers who are bound by this law are those laying off a certain number or percentage of workers. When employers do not follow the notice requirement, they may be required to pay the employees for each day of notice that wasn’t given. WARN applies to employers with 100 or more workers that have a mass layoff or a plant closing.

Plant closings occur when a single employment site is permanently or temporarily closed resulting in job losses for 50 or more workers during a 30-day period. Mass layoffs are reductions in the workforce that result in job losses for workers at a single site of 500 or more employees. Between 50 to 499 employees who are laid off will be counted as a mass layy off if they make up one-third or more of the workforce at the site. Mass layoffs are those that happen in a 30-day period.

Staged layoffs or plant closings also must follow the WARN notice rules. These are the same as previously defined except that they occur in stages over a 90-day period. The staged layoff or plant closing rule is meant to keep employers from skirting the law’s requirements by doing a number of smaller layoffs. New Jersey also has its own state law version of the federal WARN act called the Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act, which has notification requirements in addition to those required under federal law.

Exceptions to the notice requirement

There are exceptions to the notice requirement under WARN. Layoffs that result from a lockout, strike or the closing of a temporary facility do not have notice requirements. If the layoff results from an unforeseeable business circumstance or a natural disaster, the employer may give less than 60 days notice.

If you have lost your job because of a layoff or plant closing, you may want to talk to an employment law attorney at Swartz Swidler if you believe that your employer has violated the notice requirements or has failed to provide you with the required final pay.