By Attorney Edward Jesson
WARN notices have once again been in the news lately: a lawsuit was filed against a prominent Chicago restaurant after it closed, alleging that it failed to properly notify its employees of its closing; Wells Fargo issued a WARN notice regarding the layoff of over 500 employees in South Carolina. But what is a WARN notice and why should you, as an employer or an employee care?
The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) is a federal law that was enacted in an attempt to protect workers when layoffs are inevitable. The WARN Act applies to employers with 100 or more employees (excluding part time workers) and generally provides that those employers must provide at least 60 days advanced written notice of a plant closing or mass layoff which would affect 50 or more employees at a single site of employment. It is important to note that “plant closing” does not only refer to manufacturing plants or similar things, but in fact refers to a single site of employment.
There are exceptions to the requirement that the employer provide 60 days written notice. For example, natural disasters, unforeseeable business circumstances, or under circumstances where a business is actively seeking capital and issuing the WARN notice could jeopardize that, are all circumstances in which the employer may not necessarily have to issue the WARN notice.
The WARN notice provides employees who are losing their job with information regarding assistance provided through the relevant state’s Rapid Response Dislocated Worker Unit (“RRDWU”). Upon receipt of a WARN notice, the RRDWU coordinates with the employer to provide on-site information to the workers about future employment opportunities and retraining services, such as job search assistance and on-the-job and/or classroom job training programs.
If any employer violates WARN, the employer may be liable to each affected employee for an amount equal to back pay and benefits for the period of the WARN violation, which can be up to 60 days. Back pay for 100 employees over a 60 day period can obviously be a significant amount, especially to an employer that is already forced to lay off employees.
If you believe that your company may have to issue a WARN notice please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Jesson & Rains, PLLC to assist.
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