You Got a WARN Notice. Now What?

In the current economy, it’s not unheard of companies shutting down. According to a report from USA Today, the companies that closed the most stores in 2013 include major retail stores such as Best Buy, Sears, J.C. Penney, Radio Shack, Barnes & Noble, Gamestop and Office Max.

When large organizations are involved in massive layoffs, they must give their employees a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notice. This gives employees that are laid off the opportunity to look for work and receive severance packages.

What is a WARN notice?

A WARN notice protects your rights as a worker in the event your employer has a massive layoff. Under the WARN Act, an employer must give written notice 60 days before the date of a mass layoff or plant closing to all eligible employees.

If your employer does not give you the required notice, you may be able to seek damages for back pay and benefits for up to 60 days. Additionally, your employer may agree to additional severance pay and continued health benefits in the event of a mass layoff.

Why did I get a WARN notice?

As an eligible employee, you received a WARN notice because your employer file for bankruptcy, needs to reduce the workforce or is selling the business.

Who is covered under a WARN notice?

Typically, an employee is covered under WARN if their employ has over 100 full-time employees and are planning a plant closure or massive layoff. It will include the following information:

  • An explanation of whether the layoff or closing is permanent or temporary of 6 months or less.
  • The date of layoff or closing and the date of your separation (Your employer has some leeway in predicting the dates on which workers will be separated.

When does a WARN notice become effective?

The clock starts ticking the moment you are handed the WARN notice. But keep in mind that a verbal announcement at an all-employees’ meeting does not meet the WARN Act requirements. Also, preprinted notices regularly included in each employee’s paycheck or press releases to the media do not meet the requirements.

Can I waive my right to a WARN notice?

You cannot be required to waive your right to advance notice under WARN. Usually what happens when an employer closes a facility or has a layoff, is that it will ask its employees to sign a document waiving their right to file a lawsuit against the employer.

Waiving the right to make claims against your employer means that you agree to not to sue the employer for additional financial compensation or any other benefit because of your job loss.

In most cases employees sign away their rights to sue because they are offered additional severance pay or extended health benefits. By signing the waiver voluntarily and knowingly, you may have waived any claims you have under WARN or other employment-related laws.

Where do I go for information about my WARN notice?

When WARN notices are handed out, the Human Resources department will usually handle all severance packages and questions by employees. If you are not satisfied with the answers, you can also contact an attorney specializing in labor and employment law.

The US Department of Labor can also be a resource where displaced workers can get information on job training and get more information on how the WARN Act works. More information on the WARN Act can be found at http://www.dol.gov

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