Are you Entitled to Notice Before a Layoff?
Notice of Layoff Under the WARN Act
Under federal labor law, employers who are anticipating a plant closure or a mass layoff of workers must provide a notice under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (“WARN”) Act, which was passed in 1988. See fact sheet here and our previous blog post here. Many states have laws that supplement the Federal WARN Act and many state laws are more protective of workers facing closures or mass layoffs.
If employers fail to provide the required WARN Act Notice, the affected employees can sue and can win big. This is what happened recently with a resort in Westchester County, New York. See media report here. The employer was a golfing/hotel resort complex called the Doral Arrowwood Resort in Rye Brook, New York, that had more than 400 hotel rooms. Before closing in early 2020, Doral Arrowwood employed more than 250 employees. In 2019, the business was in foreclosure. On Christmas Eve 2019, all of the employees were fired, without warning, devastating the workers and their families. More importantly from a legal standpoint, the employer never issued the required notice under the WARN Act — either the federal version or the New York version — that a mass layoff was contemplated.
The New York Attorney General and the employees sued. A settlement was recently reached for $2.5 million, the largest settlement of its kind under the New York WARN Act. According to the media report, each worker will “win big” and receive between $6,000 and $15,000.
Layoff Notice Requirements under the WARN Act
As noted, the WARN Act requires employers give notice to their employees when a plant closure or a mass layoff is contemplated. Under federal law, which applies across all 50 states, the federal WARN Act notice must be given at least 60 days before any mass layoffs or closings. Under the New York WARN Act, notice must be given at least 90 days in advance. The notice requirement applies to businesses with at least 100 full-time workers and is required when there is a “plant closing” or when there is a “mass layoff.” A plant closing is defined as a labor force reduction of 50 or more workers in a 30 day period. A mass layoff is defined to include various circumstances not involving a plant closure but which results in an employment loss of at least 500 workers at the employment site during any 30-day period or a loss of 50 to 499 workers if they make up at least 33% of the employer’s active workforce.
Exceptions to the Federal WARN Act Law
The federal WARN Act has some exceptions–allowing notice of layoff to be sent with less than 60 days’ notice. Some of the exceptions, which permit an employer to provide workers less than 60 days’ notice of a lawoff are as follows:
- Plant closures by a “faltering company” — this is allowed where, for example, a company is seeking new capital, owners, or business in order to stay open and where giving notice would ruin the opportunity to get the new capital, owners, or business
- “Unforeseeable business circumstances” — this applies to both plant closures and mass layoffs caused by business circumstances that were “not reasonably foreseeable at the time notice would otherwise have been required”
- Natural disasters — such as a flood, earthquake, drought or storm
Most State WARN Acts — like the New York version — either do not have these exceptions or define them more narrowly.
Call the Employee Rights Attorneys at Herrmann Law Today
If you are or were part of a layoff and you think your WARN Act rights were violated, call the Employee Rights attorneys at Herrmann Law. We are proven, experienced, employee-focused attorneys representing workers across the United States in all types of workplace disputes. Use our Online Contact page or call us at (817) 479-9229. We are more than just a law firm for employees – we are an employee’s fiercest advocate, equipping employees with the legal representation needed to achieve the best result possible.