For employees who have been recently terminated as part of a mass layoff, they may feel as though their best options are to cut ties and move on from their former employer. Even where there may be dozens of former colleagues who are in the same boat, employees must remember that they still have rights when it comes to losing their position as part of a large scale layoff.
The WARN Act
The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act was passed in 1988 to provide workers with sufficient time to prepare for transitioning from their current job and a new job. Such notice gives employees time to apply for new jobs, undergo training for a new job, or otherwise prepare for the costs of unemployment. Where a mass layoff is occurring, the employer is required to provide its employees with sixty-days’ notice that their employment will be terminated.
The WARN Act has very specific requirements for when and to whom it applies. Typically, a notice is required when a business with 100 or more full-time workers (not counting workers who have less than 6 months on the job and workers who work fewer than 20 hours per week) is laying off at least 50 people at a single site of employment. The single site of employment is a key element, as there are many nationwide companies that likely terminate more than 50 people who work in separate states across the country.
The WARN Act also has several exceptions that diminish an employer’s duty to provide notice. For example, “unforeseeable business circumstances” can allow an employer to conduct a mass layoff without providing sixty days’ notice. Many companies utilized this exemption in 2020 due to the pandemic. The exceptions also occur when a company is faltering or when a natural disaster disrupts the business. An employer may also choose to pay the terminated employees for 60 days, which is still a violation of the WARN Act, but it also offsets the damages permitted by WARN.
Do not hesitate to stand up for your rights.
While there are several exceptions to the WARN Act, if an employee has been part of a mass layoff and has received no warnings at least sixty days ahead of time, it is crucial for these employees to understand their rights and be paid the compensation they are owed.