A Lawyer’s Guide to the WARN Act

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Within a week of acquiring Twitter in October 2022, billionaire Elon Musk made further headlines by firing several of Twitter’s leaders and announcing massive layoffs. As a result, several class action lawsuits were immediately leveled against Elon Musk and Twitter for violating the WARN Act.

But what is the WARN Act and why is it important? Read on to learn more about this law and why it matters for those who find themselves facing a layoff.

What is the WARN Act?

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act is a federal law that requires employers of large companies to provide advance notice to workers who will be part of mass layoffs or a plant closing. Several states have their own versions of the law in addition to or separate from the federal law.

Per the WARN Act, employers must notify employees (or union representative, if workers are unionized) a minimum of sixty days before the layoff. Notice should include the layoff date, whether they are permanent or temporary, and when and how employees will receive their termination letter. If you are a member of a union, your employer is required to notify union reps who will communicate the layoffs to employees.

Who is Protected by the WARN Act?

The WARN Act protects workers at companies with more than 100 full-time employees and the layoffs involve one of three scenarios:

  • A plant closing and 50 or more people are laid off
  • A layoff of 50-499 employees (33% or more of the workforce) at a single site
  • An employer lays off 500 or more employees at a single site

Exceptions to WARN Act Notification

In some cases, employers do not have to give 60 days’ notice to employees about a layoff:

  • A strike forcing the plant or company to close
  • Workers that were hired as temporary or seasonal employees
  • Government or federal employees
  • Natural disasters
  • Unforeseeable business circumstances that could not be anticipated 60 days prior to layoffs

Even in cases where 60 days advance notice cannot be given per the WARN Act, employers are required to give as much notice as possible.

Do I need an attorney when I get laid off?

Getting laid off is a stressful and unpleasant experience. If you find yourself being included in your company’s layoffs or plant closure, you may feel pressured to sign a form acknowledging the layoffs. NEVER sign anything until you have read the fine print and/or consulted with an attorney. You may be signing your rights away!

Workers who don’t receive adequate notice could be eligible for compensation and benefits lost due to the WARN Act violation, up to 60 days. (Note: this amount is reduced by any wages earned or severance payments employers voluntarily make during the 60-day window). The US Department of Labor is responsible for informing companies about the WARN Act, but it can’t issue citations to companies that violate the law. The only way to hold a company accountable is to file a lawsuit with the help of a skilled employment attorney.

Hiring a skilled employment attorney familiar with the WARN Act and Washington labor laws can protect your rights and your future. If you need an attorney, give us a call for a free consultation. Our legal team will review the details of your case and determine whether you have a case and help you understand your options.

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