When to Evaluate Possible WARN Act Obligations

Q: We’re planning to lay off enough employees to fall under the WARN Act. What should our timetable be for evaluating our obligations?

A: At least 90 days in advance.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires covered employers to provide at least 60 days’ notice to employees in the event of a triggering event like closure of an entire facility or layoff of a large enough portion of the workforce. In those situations, the employer must contact the workers themselves, the local “disaffected workers unit,” the chief executive of the local government (typically the mayor) and union representatives, if applicable.

Prior to these notifications, which must be in-hand to the designated individuals at least 60 days prior to the day of closure or termination, the company should perform an extensive analysis to ascertain whether the closure or layoff (including its resulting terminations) may expose the company to future legal liability. This process can take some time as employers must prepare notifications and severance packages in addition to the analysis.

Note that the law is complex, and members are encouraged to call Employers Council for guidance on coverage and whether their employment actions meet the definitions of “mass layoff” or “plant closing.”

These materials are general in nature not to be construed as the rendering of legal or management advice. Send your questions to cgraves@employerscouncil.org. Please tell us if you would prefer your identity not be mentioned in our answer.

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