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What Is The Worker Adjustment And Retraining Notification (WARN) Act?


Employees and their families depend on the income they receive from their employers. However, there are times when companies need to lay off large numbers of employees or close a plant entirely. This has a huge effect on many people’s lives, which is why there are protections in place when events like this occur. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires employers to give notice ahead of mass layoffs and plant closings.

The WARN Act is intended to help give employees the opportunity to find new employment or enter training programs that can help them find new employment before they are affected by the mass layoff or plant closing.

If you find yourself in a situation like this, you need to know what rights you have to ensure your employer is respecting them. Learn more about the WARN Act and if it applies to you.

WARN Act Requirements

Under the WARN Act, private employers with more than 100 employees are required to provide 60 days’ notice when they are planning a mass layoff that will affect 50 or more employees or closing a plant. However, this doesn’t include those who have been employed there for fewer than six months in the last 12 month period or who work an average of fewer than 20 hours per week. Because of this, employers do not always need to provide warnings this far in advance if the situation doesn’t meet these requirements.

While this is a federal labor law, New York State also has its own WARN Act that provides stricter protections for more employees. This Act applies to private employers who:

  • Have more than 50 full-time employees when there are closings affecting 25 or more employees;
  • Have mass layoffs involving 25 or more full-time employees if the 25 or more employees make up at least 33% of all the employees at the site; or
  • Have mass layoffs involving 250 or more full-time employees.

New York State’s WARN Act also requires these employers to provide 90 days’ notice, rather than the federal WARN Act’s 60 days. In some cases, it also applies to certain relocations and covered reductions in work hours

Who Needs to Be Notified?

Organizations and individuals who need to be notified under New York’s WARN Act include:

  • The affected employees and their representatives
  • The State Labor Department
  • Local workforce development boards
  • The chief elected official of the unit or units of local government where the site is located
  • The school districts where the site is located
  • The locality that provides police, firefighting, emergency medical or ambulance services, or other emergency services, to the locale where the site is located.

Are There Exceptions to the WARN Act?

Of course, there are times when circumstances don’t allow employers to give notice of mass layoffs and closings. There are some exceptions to the WARN Act when employers do not need to give 90 days’ notice. Exceptions include:

  • Faltering companies
  • Unforeseeable business circumstances
  • Natural disasters
  • Strikes
  • Lockouts

However, even when an employer can’t give notice 90 days in advance, they still must give it in a timely manner. Employers are also required to provide proof that they meet the qualifications to be exempt from the WARN Act.

What Happens if an Employer Violates the WARN Act?

If an employer violates your WARN Act rights to receive adequate notice, they could be required to provide back pay and benefits for 60 days of the violation. Additionally, they are required to pay a civil penalty of $500 per day of the violation.

New York City Employee Rights Attorneys Who Can Help

As an employee, it’s essential that you understand your rights so that you know when they’re being violated. If your plant is closing or you’re affected by a mass layoff and believe your employer violated the rights you have under the WARN Act, you might have many questions about what you can do to help yourself.

Contact Brown Kwon & Lam today for help protecting your employee rights.