What is the WARN Act?

When your employer downsizes your company, you may wonder what your rights are. Unfortunately, the law does not protect your position or your options for future employment. Your employer retains the right to lay off employees when the company is in a difficult situation. However, you do have the right to receive notice prior to the layoff date, thanks to the WARN Act.

The Basics of the WARN Act

If your employer lays you off from your company without proper notice, you may receive damages through an employee lawsuit. Your employer must give you proper notice before you leave your job under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (the WARN Act). California also has a mini-WARN law which expands upon these federal regulations.

Employees working at locations covered by the WARN Act and by California’s mini-WARN Act must receive notice 60 days prior to the layoff. If employees are part of a union, they do not need to receive individual notice. The employer will notify the employees’ bargaining representatives, who will then notify the laid-off employees.

Who Does the WARN Act Cover?

Employers who employ at least 100 full-time employees or at least 100 employees who work a minimum of 4,000 combined hours per week must give WARN notice to their employees. Under federal law, full-time employees work for the employer for at least 6 months prior to the WARN notice date and work for at least 20 hours per week. Under California’s mini-WARN, employers who operate an industrial or commercial facility with at least 75 employees must provide mini-WARN notice.

Under the WARN Act and California’s mini-WARN, large employers must give notice to employees in advance of any mass layoff or plant closings. This notice is dependent on the percentage of employees or the number of employees who will lose their jobs as a result of these layoffs. The WARN Act also applies to plant closing or mass layoffs that occur over a 90-day period.

  • Under the federal WARN Act, a mass layoff is the firing of the number of employees that makes up at least 33% of the workforce at the company. For example, an employer with 400 employees will have to provide WARN Act notice if he or she fires 132 employees or more.
  • The WARN Act also defines plant closings as the shutdown of a single workplace, facility, or operating unit. The plant closing must result in job loss of 50 or more employees over a 30-day period.
  • Under the mini-WARN Act, employers must provide notice if they conduct a mass layoff, which is the loss of jobs for at least 50 employees over 30 days. Employers must also adhere to the Act if they close a facility with at least 75 employees or if they relocate a facility with at least 75 employees over 100 miles away.

Exceptions to the WARN Act Requirements

Under WARN and mini-WARN, employers do not have to provide notice if the employees are temporary or seasonal if the employees knew that their employment was only for a short period of time beforehand. Under mini-WARN, employers do not have to provide notice if the layoffs occurred due to an act of war, natural disaster, or another physical calamity.

Under WARN, employers do not have to provide notice if the layoffs are due to an employee lockout or union strike. Employers can provide shorter notice than the 60 days if they encounter unforeseeable business circumstances, if the company is struggling financially, or if natural disasters occur.

If your employer laid you off without giving you the 60 days’ notice, you could file a claim to receive pay and benefits lost for the period of time he or she did not provide you notice. Contact a California employment attorney as soon as possible to begin this claim process.