Layoffs take away your livelihood and can turn your life upside down. While many employment relationships are at-will and can be terminated with little notice, mass layoffs require that employers abide by federal regulations. In some cases, state regulations also apply. If you believe your employer has not followed these regulations, you should seek advice from an experienced New Jersey or New York mass layoff attorney.
The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) provides protections to workers in certain plant closures and mass layoffs. For the WARN Act to apply, the employer must have 100 or more full-time employees, with limited exceptions. Most public employers are not covered. The WARN Act requires that covered employers who are laying off certain numbers of workers must provide 60 days’ advance notice, and the notice must contain certain specified information. The WARN Act applies to covered employers laying off 500 or more employees, or 50 or more employees who make up at least 33% of the employer’s workforce, or 50 or more employees in a plant closing. Temporary layoffs that exceed 30 days also are covered under the Act.
State laws provide additional protections beyond the federal WARN Act. Many states have enacted their own WARN Act-type laws, including New Jersey and New York. New Jersey’s WARN Act equivalent requires additional information in the layoff notice, including the number of employees laid off and the reasons for the layoff. The state law also requires employers to provide severance to laid off employees in an amount proportional to the length of the worker’s employment. New York’s WARN Act contains significant additional protections for workers, expanding covered employers to those who have 50 or more employees (compared to the federal requirement of 100), and applying notice requirements to layoffs involving 250 or more employees (compared to 500), or 25 or more employees (compared to 50) who make up at least 33% of the employer’s workforce. These are only some of the differences between the federal and state WARN Acts.
Sometimes a reduction in workforce is used to fire employees for a discriminatory purpose. It is improper to lay off any employee for discriminatory reasons, even if done under the pretense of a legitimate business need to downsize. Specific business-related purposes should guide the determination of what employees to lay off, and those guidelines should be applied impartially.
Mass layoffs can sometimes involve entities other than your employer. Where the employer dissolves but fails to follow WARN Act requirements, parent companies can sometimes be held liable. If the employer filed for bankruptcy, employees could potentially seek recovery from the bankruptcy estate. WARN Act cases can be brought by individuals, but sometimes can be pursued as class actions when many employees are similarly affected. In a successful WARN Act case, the employer may be required to pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees.
If you are the subject of a mass layoff, you may feel that there is nothing that you can do. Nonetheless, you do have legal protections in a large layoff or plant closing. If you believe your rights have been violated or you have not received proper notice of a layoff, you should contact an experienced New Jersey or New York mass layoff WARN Act attorney right away. At Resnick Law Group, PC we have successfully handled numerous WARN Act claims, and with offices in both New Jersey and New York, we can provide you with individualized, quality legal assistance. For a confidential consultation, call our New Jersey office at (973) 781-1204, or our New York office at 1 (888) 863-3423.