Academic journal article Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act: Policy and Practice Issues for Employers

Academic journal article Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act: Policy and Practice Issues for Employers

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) provides that, with certain exceptions, employers of 100 or more workers must give at least 60 days advance notice of a plant closing or mass layoff to affected workers and to the appropriate local government officials. The purpose of the act is to provide protection to workers, their families, and communities, to facilitate workers and their families some transition to adjust to the prospective loss of employment, to seek and obtain alternative jobs, and if necessary, to enter skill training and or retraining that will allow these workers to successfully compete in the job market. While the act has received renewed attention in recent years, the act has also been described as "a Quagmire of Confusion" and a 2003 GAO study identified numerous concerns expressed by both employees and employers as to how the law is supposed to work. The purpose of this paper is to identify potential legal issues and problems that employers may encounter with respect to WARN Act compliance and what organizations can do to minimize their exposure and liability associated with the WARN Act.

INTRODUCTION

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) Act Pub. L. 100-379, 102 Stat. 890, was enacted on August 4, 1988(29 U.S.C. 2101 et seq.). The WARN Act provides that, with certain exceptions, employers of 100 or more workers must give at least 60 days advance notice of a plant closing or mass layoff to affected workers or their representatives, to the State dislocated worker unit (see 29 U.S.C. 1661(b)(2)), and to the appropriate local government(29 U.S.C. 2902 and 2903). The term "mass layoff" means a reduction in force that:

   Does not result from a plant closing; and results in an employment
   loss at the single site of employment during any 30-day period for;
   at least 50-499 employees if they represent at least 33% of the
   total active workforce, excluding any part-employees; or 500 or
   more employees (excluding any part-time employees).in this case,
   the 33% rule does not apply) (Employment and Training
   Administration, 2003, p. 28)

The term "plant closing" is:

   the permanent or temporary shutdown of a single site of employment,
   or one or more facilities or operating units within a single site
   of employment, if the shutdown results in an employment loss at the
   single site of employment during any 30-day period for 50 or more
   employees, excluding part-time employees. All of the employment
   losses do not have to occur within the unit that is shut down. For
   example, if the 45 person accounting department in a firm is
   eliminated and, as a result of the accounting department's closing,
   five positions in the clerical support staff are eliminated, a
   covered plant closing has occurred (Employment and Training
   Administration, 2003, p. 28).

Section 8(a) of the Act requires that the Secretary of Labor "prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to carry out this Act. Such regulations shall, at a minimum, include interpretative regulations describing the method by which employers may provide for appropriate service of notice as required by this Act" (29 U.S.C. 2107(a)). The purpose of the act is to provide protection to workers, their families, and communities by requiring employers to provide 60 calendar days in advance of plant closings and mass layoff notice to facilitate workers and their families some transition to adjust to the prospective loss of employment, to seek and obtain alternative jobs and if necessary, to enter skill training and or retraining that will allow these workers to successfully compete in the job market. In addition, the act is intended to provide state dislocation units notice so that dislocated worker assistance can be promptly provided.

The act is enforced entirely through the federal courts. Employees, their representatives, or units of local government can bring civil actions in federal district courts against employers, and employers who violate the act may be liable for back pay and benefits to each aggrieved employee. …

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