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The WARN Act and Employee Layoffs


If you lost your job through a mass layoff, you may be entitled to compensation.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act) is designed to give employees sufficient notice in the event of mass employee layoffs. Federal and state laws require employers intending to close most large worksites, plants, or places of business to give advanced notice to their employees. Failure to provide the required notice can result in steep penalties to employers.

Many employers choose to ignore the signs of an inevitable layoff that are in front of them. Instead, they choose to hide their head in the sand as if the reality is different. When there is no time left, the employer announces the devastating news to the employees, giving employees no time to prepare.

The WARN Act protects employees from a lack of notice in these situations. When employers violate the WARN Act, employees have the right to compensation.

What is the WARN Act?

The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, otherwise known as the WARN Act, protects employees in the event of plant closing and mass layoffs. The Act provides for the following:

  • Employees in companies with 100 or more employees
  • When 50 or more employees are laid off for six months or more due to plant closings, mass layoffs, or company buy out.
  • The employees must be full-time and have worked for the company for at least six months.
  • The employees must receive at least 60-days’ notice.

The purpose of the WARN Act is to give workers and their families transition time to prepare for the prospective loss of employment. It helps give workers time to find a new job. If necessary, it provides workers time to seek training in a new skill or retraining in an existing skill that will allow them to obtain replacement work.

What Happens If the Company Does not Abide by the Federal WARN Act?

Many employers will wait until the last possible minute to provide notice to their employees of mass layoffs or plant closures. If the employees meet the standards to qualify for federal WARN Act notification, waiting can cost your employer dearly.

If the employer does not abide by the federal WARN Act, the employee may be entitled to the following compensation:

  • Up to 60 days compensation
  • Up to $500 per day of notice not given within the 60-day window for government employees.
  • Up to 60 days payment of benefits for laid-off employees

Do States Have Different Requirements for Employers under State WARN Act Provisions?

Several states maintain state-level WARN Acts. New York, New Jersey, and California have enacted state-wide layoff notice laws the provide higher protections than the federal laws for employees.

What Is the New York WARN Act?

The New York Work Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (NY WARN) is similar to the federal law. However, it covers employees working with employers with 50 or more employees. The employer must provide notice if they are laying off at least 33% of their staff (25 employees) or 250 employees from a single site. It also requires 90 days’ notice for Mass layoffs meeting these requirements. The NY WARN Act includes plant relocation to an area 50 miles or more away from the original plant as a reason for the notification.

How Does New Jersey’s Layoff Notice Law Work?

The New Jersey Plant Closing/Mass Layoff Law applies to an employer of a company in business for three years with 100 or more full-time employees. The law applies to layoffs for at least 30 days. Employers must supply the notice if the company is laying off at least 33% of its staff (50 employees or more) or 500 or more employees at one time throughout the entire state of New Jersey. Currently, the law requires employers to provide 60 days’ notice. If employers do not provide the notice, employees can receive one week’s severance pay for every year of service in addition to any other severance package offered to laid-off employees.

In January 2020, Governor Murphy signed a new law affecting mass layoff and notice. The amendments state that each employee must receive at least 90-days’ notice of a mass layoff, plant closure, or relocation. It also states all employees should receive a severance package of one week’s salary for each year of service for the company.  If employers do not provide proper layoff notice, employees should receive four weeks’ severance pay for every week of service for each employee. Employers pay this money in addition to any other offered severance. The law was set to take effect in July 2020.

However, Governor Murphy and the NJ legislature further amended these changes to the law due to COVID. Governor Murphy signed a COVID amendment which stated the following:

  • National emergencies (such as COVID) provide employer exemptions to the WARN Act.
  • The previously signed amendment changes do not take effect until 90 days after the expiration of Executive order 103, which declared COVID a state emergency.

What Rights Does California’s WARN Act Provide?

The California WARN Act applies to employers with 75 full and part-time employees within a 12-month period. The California WARN Act requires notice to be within at least 60 days of losing your job due to a relocation of over 100 miles or company closure. Employers must lay off employees for at least 30 days. Employers must provide notice when they are laying off at least 50 employees regardless of the size of the location or business.

Do Pennsylvania and Florida Have State Layoff Notice Laws?

In Florida and Pennsylvania, the federal WARN Act is the only law regulating notice of mass layoffs and plant closures.

Should I Accept an Employer Severance Package During a Mass Layoff, Buy-Out, or Plant Closure?

Your employer has an obligation under federal laws and some state laws to provide notice of a layoff. In some states, they must also provide severance packages as part of the layoff notice.

When your employer violates your rights, you should consult an attorney to determine your next steps. It is wise also to discuss any severance package offer with your attorney. Your employer may not offer you all that you are entitled to under the law.

What Is the Statute of Limitations to File Your Warn Act Claim?

The federal WARN Act does not specify a statute of limitations. Therefore, the federal courts follow the time limit set by the state law. The state laws vary from several months to several years to file a WARN Act violation lawsuit.

Contact a dedicated employment law attorney to ensure your claim is filed in a timely manner. It is always best to file your claim sooner rather than later.

What Compensation Is Available for Violations Under the WARN Act?

Under the federal WARN Act, if your employer does not provide proper notice, the law provides you with back pay and reimbursement of benefits. You will receive payments for each day your employer denied you notice, up to the 60 days required by federal law.

States with their own employment protection laws mandate remedies for violations per their state laws. Consult with a qualified WARN Act and employment lawyer to determine your relief for any violation under the laws of your state and federal WARN Act regulations.

Consult an Employment Lawyer to Assist with Your WARN Act Claim.

Your job is your livelihood. When your company needs to enforce a mass layoff, you lose your livelihood. It can be devastating. However, with the proper notice, you can begin your search for a new position. Getting a head start on the job search, when available, can help calm your fears and make moving to a new job more manageable.

However, when your company ignores your rights, you deserve an advocate in your corner to help you navigate the law. They can help ensure you file your claim within the appropriate time frame. Your attorney can help ensure you file your claim with the appropriate court, following all the applicable laws.

Your attorney will not only advocate for your rights and negotiate on your behalf. Their job is to stand by your side to help you fight for your rights when laid off.

Contact Our Experienced Warn Act Attorneys for Your Free Consultation

We are sorry you have been laid off, or your plant closed or relocated. We are even more concerned you did not receive the notification you are entitled to receive.

If you are the victim of WARN Act violations, the experienced employment and labor attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group can help.

Did Your Company Conduct a Mass Layoff without Warning as Required Under the WARN Act? Do You Need to Know More About Your Employment Rights in a Mass Layoff? Please Call Us at 800.807.2209 or Email with Your Questions.

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