Workplace Rights

Weekly (9/28/09)

Topic of the Week  Stiff Jobs... When a company must WARN you before a layoff

 The WARN Act, Warning before a layoff:
• DO get notice.
• DO get help even if your facility wasn’t closed.
• DO get penalized for not giving a warning.
• DON’T fit into WARN.

Your Rant: Don’t companies have to give you warning before a layoff?

911 Repair,
It’s everyone’s worst nightmare. You show up at work to find the place shuttered, leaving you shattered. But workers do have some limited rights when facing an abrupt layoff. Which reminds me of an 11 year-old boy in Alabama who faked his own kidnapping to try to cover up a bad report card. His story didn’t hang together and his plan was revealed.

Similarly, when a company is failing to make the grade they can’t just kidnap your job, they have to reveal their plans, 60 days notice under the WARN act (a.k.a. Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act). Okay, it’s not like you’re getting long-term job security, but at least it can help with your transition. I’ve included three Do’s and one Don’t below about WARN. For more, check out the Essential Guide to Federal Employment Laws by Guerin and Delpo (Nolo, 2006).

DO get notice. Companies are supposed to give two months notice before closing a facility or conducting a mass layoff. Remember this is your government at work, so there are lots of rules and regulations. For your employer to be covered by WARN you need to have had 50 or more employees during any 30-day period (This does not count employees who have worked less than 6 months in the last 12 months or employees who work an average of less than 20 hours a week for that employer).

DO get help even if your facility wasn’t closed. The law also applies to layoffs when a plant isn’t closed. If the company lays off 500 people, or if the layoff is smaller but applies to at least 33% of the workforce, 60 days notice is the law. If you work for a company that is covered under these first two considerations, read on.

DO get penalized for not giving a warning. The penalties correspond to the length of time that a warning is required, 60 days. So if a company fails to follow the law, the employees are entitled to back pay equaling the time when they should have been warned.

DON’T fit into WARN. There are exceptions to WARN. I’m quoting the Department of Labor here. The major ones are if the company is faltering. This exception, to be narrowly construed, covers situations where a company has sought new capital or business in order to stay open and where giving notice would ruin the opportunity to get the new capital or business, and applies only to plant closings. Unforeseeable business circumstances. This exception applies to closings and layoffs that are caused by business circumstances that were not reasonably foreseeable at the time notice would otherwise have been required. Finally, Natural disasters. This applies where a closing or layoff is the direct result of a natural disaster, such as a flood, earthquake, drought or storm.

Learn about the WARN act and you could have some help if your job is ever kidnapped. 

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

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