Workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own have a few protections under state and federal law in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. While employees have a right to file for unemployment insurance benefits, certain groups of employees have additional protection under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. This law mandates that most larger employers with 100 or more workers give advanced, written notice of planned mass layoffs and plant closings of at least 60 days. If you have lost your job in a mass layoff without the required notice, the attorneys at Swartz Swidler are available to help you.
What is the WARN Act?
The Warn Act is a federal law that requires covered employers to give a minimum of 60 days’ notice of impending mass layoffs or closings. There are exceptions under the law for faltering businesses, natural disasters, and unforeseeable circumstances. The act applies to employers with 100 or more employees. However, employees who have worked for less than six out fo the last 12 months are not counted in the total. The act also does not count part-time employees working less than 20 hours per week.
This law protects communities, workers, and families with the written notice requirement. Workers who do not receive proper notice could otherwise experience undue financial hardships, and communities could suffer from the sudden increase in the number of unemployed people. Nearly all types of employees who work for employers with 100 or more workers are covered, including people who work for nonprofits and private companies. The law does not apply to state, local, and federal employees, however.
When must employers give notice under the WARN Act?
Three primary situations require covered employers to give written advanced notice to their workers. Planned plant closures that will involve laying off more than 50 workers require employers to give their workers notice within 30 days. The employers must give this notice to new employees, including those who have worked for fewer than six months and those who work less than 20 hours per week.
Employers who plan temporary mass layoffs must also give notice to their employees. In these cases, the plant will not close but will instead stop production temporarily. Mass layoffs occur when more than 500 employees will be laid off over 30 days. Employers with 50 to 499 workers must also give notice to the affected workers when the total amount who will be laid off comprises 33% or more of the workforce.
Finally, when a business will be sold, the employer must give advance written notice to the employees when the sale will result in a plant closure or mass layoff.
Why companies conduct closures and layoffs
Companies might plan plant closures and mass layoffs to continue being competitive. Some businesses are demand-based or seasonal. Companies might react to changing seasons or market conditions by temporarily laying off their employees or closing their plants to avoid going bankrupt.
Enforcement of the WARN Act
Employees, employee representatives, local governments, and unions can file lawsuits in federal court to enforce the WARN Act. If you believe your employer violated the WARN Act when you were laid off, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit. If you prevail in your lawsuit, your employer may be forced to pay you for your benefits and back pay during the violation period. Your employer’s liability may be reduced by unconditional, voluntary payments and wages that your employer made to you. Employers who violate the WARN Act may also have to pay a civil fine.
Triggers for the notice requirement
To trigger the notice requirement under the WARN Act, employment losses must meet a specific threshold. The employment loss must be involuntary and not be based on a for-cause reason or the employee’s retirement. The notice requirement can also be triggered when a layoff will last for more than six months or the working hours of the employees will be reduced by more than 50% for six months.
Certain situations will not trigger the WARN Act. For example, if you are offered a transfer to a different site within a reasonable commuting distance but refuse to accept it, your employment loss will not trigger the WARN Act. If you turn down a transfer offer within 30 days of when you received it or within 30 days of the planned mass layoff or plant closure, your job loss also will not trigger the WARN Act.
For plant closings, covered employers must give advanced, written notice to their employees when 50 or more workers will lose their jobs over 30 days. Employees who work less than 20 hours per week and those who have worked for less than six of the past 12 months are not counted toward the 50 or more employee threshold. However, employers must still give these workers notice.
When mass layoffs are planned, employers must also notify their workers. Under the WARN Act, a mass layoff occurs when 500 or more workers will lose their jobs. It also occurs when employers with 50 to 499 employees conduct layoffs that reduce the workforce by 33% or more. Employees who work less than 20 hours per week or who have worked for fewer than six out of the past 12 months are not counted. However, they still require notice.
Even if the number of people who will lose their jobs does not reach the threshold of a closing or mass layoff, employers must give notice if the number for two or more types of workers together reach the threshold amount of a closing or mass layoff over 90 days.
Help for dislocated employees
Each state’s labor department has a workforce development program. These programs are designed to provide support and to implement rapid responses to help dislocated workers. Typically, workers can receive free training and development services. Workers might also receive help with resumes, interviewing, job searches, and career counseling.
Get help from the employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler
The WARN Act helps to protect people by requiring covered employers to give advanced notice of impending mass layoffs or plant closures. If you have lost your job through a layoff or a plant closure and were not properly notified, you may have legal rights. Schedule a consultation with the employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler today by calling us at 856.685.7420 or by submitting your information on our contact form.