California Employees Are Protected by the WARN Act

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (“WARN”) Act protects workers by requiring employers  to provide notification 60 days in advance of either a plant closing or mass layoff.  Passed by Congress in 1988, the WARN Act provides workers time to adjust to the prospective loss of their job and to seek employment elsewhere.

The WARN Act applies to employers with 100 or more employees, not counting those who have worked less than six months in the prior 12 months and those who work an average of less than 20 hours a week.   Under the WARN Act, a plant closing is defined as when an “employment site,” or part of a site, is shut down and which results in the loss of 50 or more employees during any 30 day period.   A mass layoff is defined as a reduction in workforce at a single site during any 30 day period of either (1) at least 500 workers, or (2) 50 to 499 workers if they comprise at least one third of the employer’s workforce.

Certain states, like California for example, have passed WARN Act laws that set forth even stronger standards in favor of workers.  California requires a 60 day advance notice for plant closings, layoffs, and relocations of 50 or more employees regardless of the percentage of the workforce that is affected.  Further, in California, employers with 75 or more employees over the prior 12 months must provide notification to affected workers.  Part-time employees count toward the California minimum of 75 employees provided they have worked more than six months in the prior year.

Bankruptcy does not shield an employer from the notification requirement set forth by the WARN Act.  And it does not matter whether the employer’s bankruptcy filing was initiated before or after a layoff or plant closing.   Workers’ claims against an employer who has filed for bankruptcy take priority over those of other creditors.  Both hourly and salaried workers are entitled to notice through the WARN Act.  Moreover, both managers and supervisors are also entitled to notification.

Because the Department of Labor does not enforce the WARN Act by seeking monetary damages on behalf of workers who do not receive proper notification, it is important for workers to understand their potential civil claims under the WARN Act.  If you believe you were not provided notification pursuant to the requirements of the WARN Act, please contact us to discuss your legal rights.