We live in a time of economic turmoil. New Jersey’s unemployment rate stands at nine percent, well above the national average. Many New Jersey employees find themselves losing what they thought were secure jobs. Loss of a job can lead to devastating consequences. However, both the Federal and New Jersey WARN Acts require employers to provide advance notice before instituting mass layoffs.
The Federal WARN Act.
The Federal Warn Act was passed by Congress in 1988. It was designed to give workers and their families advance notice of mass layoffs to allow them, and their communities, to prepare for the impact of plant closings. It was passed with a veto-proof majority; it thus became law even though President Reagan did not sign it.
The Federal Warn Act requires 60 days notice to workers (or their union) who are affected by mass layoffs or plant shutdowns. It covers businesses with 100 full or part-time employees who work a combined 4000 hours per week or more. It covers plant shutdowns of at least 30 days which affect at least 50 employees, or mass layoffs affecting at least one third of the workers at a single worksite.
Exceptions to the notice requirements are made for closings or layoffs resulting from unforeseeable events or business circumstances. An employee who did not receive the notice can sue for unpaid wages and the employer may have to cover her attorneys fees, in the court’s discretion, if the failure was not in good faith. The employer may also face penalties.