Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) is an act that protects workers and their families by requiring that an employer provides at least 60 days' notice before covered plant closings and large-scale layoffs occur. The WARN Act aims to provide employees and their relatives with time to come to terms with losing their jobs, and so they can find new employment or pursue training opportunities.

Layoff or plant closure notification must be delivered directly to the affected workers or their representatives or labor union member. The correct unit of the local government must also be made aware of the situation.

In the state of Florida, the state's rapid response dislocated worker unit (also referred to as the REACT Reemployment and Emergency Assistance Coordination team) must also be notified in order for assistance to be provided to the workers. The state's local workforce development boards are responsible for offering direct services to all of those affected by closings and layoffs.

This act is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA).

Limitations of WARN

Not everyone is covered under the protection of this act. Managers, supervisors, and hourly and salaried workers are covered; however, Federal, state, local, and regular government entities providing public service are not.

There are several limitations to WARN, which means that it does not cover every business or every instance of a plant closure or mass layoff. These should be taken into consideration:

  • WARN does not surpass or preempt other laws (state, federal, or local) or agreements between the employer and employee that requires other notifications or benefits. Instead, WARN should be seen as a supplement to these laws.
  • WARN sets a very specific definition for "employer," and the organization in question must meet this description in order for the workers to be protected under the act.

Requirements of the WARN Act

The requirements of the WARN Act are set out below:

  • Any business with 100 employees or above is required to provide 60 days' written notification of their intention to lay off more than 50 employees during any 30-day period as a part of plant closure.
  • The employer must count all employees it has, at each of its location and not just the location where the layoffs are happening.
  • The notice must be given to several parties. These are employees, the chief elected official of the unit of local government where the company is located, any collective bargaining unit, and the State dislocated worker unit.
  • Part-time employees who work an average of less than 20 hours a week, and employees who have worked for the employer for less than six months are not considered applicable to triggering the WARN Act; however, they are entitled to WARN notice if they are being laid off.
  • If the mass layoff will not result in a plant closing, employers are still required to give the 60-day notice period under WARN if the layoff results in 500 or more employees losing their jobs during any given 30-day period.
  • WARN also covers the loss of jobs by 50–499 employees if they constitute at least a third of the employer's active workforce.
  • If an employer does not provide the 60-day notice period in the instance of a mass layoff or plant closure, then they are liable for providing each affected employee with back pay and benefits for up to 60 days under the WARN Act. (The amount may be reduced depending on the pay the workers received during this period of violation.)
  • The WARN Act layoff notice laws vary in different states. Several states have WARN Act layoff notice laws that are stricter in nature than the federal law, and may in some instances affect a smaller number of employers than those typically affected by WARN.
  • WARN does not apply to the temporary closure of an employer's facilities or the end of a contract where the individuals in question were only hired for that particular activity.
  • WARN states that the business can offer a reduced notice period than the typical 60 days where natural disaster or unforeseen circumstances cause the layoffs.

Penalties

Employers could find themselves subject to heavy penalties if they do not follow requirements set out by WARN. If they do not provide the WARN notice to the relevant local government office, they could find themselves facing fines of up to $500 a day for each day they have failed to notify the authorities and have therefore violated the requirements of the act.

Employers should pay their former workers within three weeks of making the layoffs or a plant closing. If they do not, they face high penalties.

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