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Uncle Sam WARNs Employers About Layoffs

If your business must layoff a large number of employees, you might have to comply with a little-known federal law that requires giving advance notice.

Under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act), employers who are covered must give 60-days’ notice of a plant closing or mass layoff. This notice must be given both to employees and to state and local governments. Failing to comply can result in civil penalties and employees can sue for as much as 60 days’ pay and benefits, plus attorneys’ fees.

The WARN Act is aimed at giving employees time to find new jobs or get retraining. Consult with your attorney if you think you are affected. Here are some details:

  • The law applies to companies with 100 or more employees who have worked more than 20 hours a week for the past six months. It applies when 33% of a site’s full-time staff is laid off within 30 days or if more than 500 employees are laid off from several sites within 90 days.
  • You cannot stagger layoffs to avoid the law and courts will try to determine your thinking when the layoffs occurred. The WARN notice must include the date of the layoffs, whether they are temporary or permanent, and a company contact.
  • It’s also a good idea to include information on eligibility for severance pay and to explain the reasons for the layoffs, including how the company tried to avoid them.