Outten & Golden attorneys help individuals who have lost their jobs in a reduction in force ("RIF") determine whether they have legal claims against their former employer. If the RIF qualifies as a mass layoff under the WARN Act,that law requires employers to give workers advance written notice of the RIF. If an employer does not give notice, it will owe the affected workers wages for the entire period during which they should have been on notice.
Under the WARN Act, a "mass layoff" is defined as a reduction in force that is not a plant closing, but which results in an employment loss at a single site of employment for:
Not all layoffs happen at once. Sometimes, an employer may conduct a rolling layoff by terminating a small group of employees, then another group some time later. Those employees may all still be entitled to WARN notice. The WARN Act looks at the number of employment losses occurring in any rolling 30-day period. If those numbers meet the minimum, then WARN is triggered and all the employees must be given notice, or pay in lieu of notice.
For example, if an employer with 100 employees laid off 30 workers and then laid off another 30 workers 25 days later, WARN would apply and notice would be required for both sets of employees.
WARN notices must be provided in writing and must contain specific information. Notices must be given to the affected employees, their bargaining representatives (if the employees belong to a union), to the state worker displacement agency, and to the chief elected official of the local government unit where the mass layoff or plant closing will occur. The notices must be received by the employees at least 60 days prior to the last day of work. Announcing a RIF at a company meeting is not enough; the employees must also receive written notice.
Employers who fail to comply with the WARN Act, either by giving notice too late, or who provide vague notices, may be liable to employees for back pay and benefits for each day of the violation up to a maximum of 60 days, plus civil penalties of up to $500 per day and reasonable attorney's fees. The amount of back pay owed to each employee may be offset by any wages or benefits paid to employees during the period of violation, and by any "voluntary and unconditional payment" by the employer to the employee that is not required by any legal obligation, such as a severance agreement. Many employers who violate the WARN Act ask their employees to sign "waiver agreements" in exchange for receiving severance pay. It is very important that you consult an attorney before signing such an agreement, as it may prevent you from filing other claims against the employer.
Workers who have lost their jobs in a RIF should consult an Outten & Golden lawyer. Please contact the firm through the ”Contact Us" form or by calling us in the New York, San Francisco or Washington, DC office (see bottom of page for phone numbers).