NATIONWIDE WARN ACT ATTORNEYS
Mass layoffs are common in times of economic uncertainty. The California and federal WARN Acts protect employees affected by qualifying mass layoffs. In addition, state and federal anti-discrimination laws provide that employers cannot use mass layoffs as an excuse to discriminate or retaliate against individual employees.
Our experienced team of attorneys has a proven track record of success in California and federal WARN Act cases. We have successfully represented plaintiffs in securing the compensation they deserve for their employer’s failure to provide proper notice. And while many attorneys turn down cases involving discrimination in implementing a mass layoff or reduction in force (RIF), we specialize in them. In fact, we have secured numerous multi-million dollar settlements for victims of discriminatory layoffs.
Dealing with a mass layoff or plant closing can be a stressful and difficult time. That’s why we make it our mission to provide compassionate and personalized representation to each and every one of our clients. We take the time to fully understand your situation and protect your rights and interests.
If you or someone you know has been affected by a violation of the WARN Act, contact us as soon as possible. We offer free consultations and are dedicated to getting you the justice you deserve. Let us handle the legal side of things so you can focus on moving forward with your life.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE STATE AND FEDERAL WARN ACTS?
The California WARN Act
The California WARN Act is set forth at Labor Code Section 1401. The Act protects workers who are fired from “covered establishments” in a “mass layoff.”
“Covered establishments” are all work sites that employed 75 or more people within the past 12 months.
A “mass layoff” is a layoff during a 30-day period of 50 or more employees at a covered establishment.
In practice, this means that the California WARN Act applies to worksites with more than 75 people, where more than 50 people are laid off within a month.
Once the California WARN Act applies, the employer must not conduct a qualifying layoff unless the employer gives written notice 60 days before the layoff.
An employer who fails to give notice is liable for back pay and the value of any benefit packages for the number of days impacted by the failure to give notice. For instance, if the employer failed to give any notice at all, the employer is liable for 60 days’ wages and benefits. If the employer gave 30 days’ notice, the employer is liable for 30 days’ wages and benefits.
The employer may also be liable for penalties of up to $200 per pay period, per employee under the Private Attorney General Act (PAGA).
The Federal WARN Act
The Federal WARN Act is found at 29 USC § 2101. The Act protects workers who are fired during a “plant closing” or “mass layoff.” Additionally, the “plant closing” or “mass layoff” event must have been done by a “covered” employer.
An employer is covered by the Federal WARN Act if it employs more than 100 full-time employees or employs 100 or more employees of any type who work a total of 4,000 hours per week of regular time. Governmental employers are not covered.
A “plant closing” is “the permanent or temporary shutdown of a single site of employment” that results in the loss of 50 or more full-time employees over a 30-day period.
A “mass layoff” is a reduction in force (RIF) that results in a loss of employment of at least (1) 33% of full-time employees and at least 50 full-time employees or (2) 500 full-time employees over a 30-day period.
When counting the number of terminated employees, the federal WARN Act first looks at the number of employees laid off in a 30-day window. Under certain circumstances, like when an employer is attempting to evade the WARN act, the window may be extended to 90 days. This is not true under the California WARN Act.
Once the Federal WARN Act applies, the employer must give written notice 60 days before the layoff. If notice is not given, employees are entitled to damages in the amount of the wages they would have earned plus the value of any benefits. An employee has rights under the WARN Act if they are fired, laid off, or furloughed for over 6 months, or experience more than a 50% reduction in work hours.
An employer may avoid liability under the WARN act where it offers to transfer the employee to another location with less than a 6-month break in employment or if the closing is the result of unforeseeable circumstances.
Differences Between the California and Federal WARN Act
For employees in California, it is important to understand the difference between the State and federal WARN Acts. A skilled attorney will know whether your case is stronger under a specific version of the law. We summarize the major differences below.
|California WARN Act||Federal WARN Act|
|Applicability||Employers with 75 or more employees in the last 12 months||Employers with 100 or more employees (part-time workers excluded)|
|Definition of a “mass layoff”||Layoff of at least 50 employees||Layoff of at least (1) 500 employees OR (2) 33% of employees, totaling at least 50 employees|
|Minimum headcount||No minimum headcount||Plant closure or termination must involve at least 50 employees|
|Offers of relocation||If the offer of relocation is more than 100 miles away, it counts as a layoff||The federal WARN Act does not apply if the employer offers a job site within “reasonable commuting distance” OR the employee accepts an offer at a job site in any location|
|Exceptions||No exceptions for unforeseeable business circumstances||Exception if the business is forced to lay off employees or close due to circumstances that were not foreseeable 60 days earlier|
LAYOFFS AREN’T A LICENSE TO DISCRIMINATE.
It is important to note that anti-discrimination and retaliation laws apply even in the context of a mass layoff or reduction in force (RIF). Employers frequently use mass layoffs or RIFs as an excuse to fire employees for illegal reasons. This includes firing employees on medical leave, pregnant employees, disabled employees, or older employees, among other things. The fact that the employer also laid off employees for financial reasons is not a license to discriminate.
If you think that your firing as part of a RIF might have been discriminatory or retaliatory it is important that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible because companies will often offer severance packages to employees who have been part of a RIF. If you sign the severance agreement you will waive your claims against your employer, even if you were illegally fired.
Age Discrimination in Mass Layoffs
Mass layoffs often result in discrimination against older workers. Older workers are often paid more or have more expensive benefits such as health care. Companies also view older workers as less likely to keep working for a long time. As a result, companies looking to reduce costs often select older workers for reductions in force. This is illegal. If you are an older worker who has been fired as part of a reduction in force you should talk to an experienced attorney to evaluate your case.
Disability Discrimination in Mass Layoffs
Employers also often target disabled employees in mass layoffs. Disabled employees may require leave or accommodations. Managers who chose which employees will be laid off as part of the RIF select disabled employees because they think that their lives will be easier without them or because they are concerned that a disabled employee might request leave in the future. Some managers even think that they are doing disabled employees a “favor” by firing them because they require accommodations at work. We have even seen cases where companies use layoffs as cover for disabled employees that they have been trying to get rid of for a long time.
Pregnancy Discrimination in Mass Layoffs
Employers also use mass layoffs as an excuse to lay off pregnant employees. Sometimes, this is because they view maternity leave as a burden; other times, it is to avoid additional benefits costs when a new parent adds family members to company benefit plans. Sometimes this is just because employers hold outdated views about whether pregnant workers or new parents are loyal employees.
Talk to an Experienced Lawyer Today
King & Siegel has litigated many wrongful termination cases that were part of a RIF, and we will help you evaluate whether you have a case. While many attorneys do not accept RIF cases, we excel at them. We are experienced at compiling the type of comparator and statistical data needed to prove discrimination.
If you believe you have been laid off in violation of the WARN Act or anti-discrimination laws, contact us today. Our consultations are 100% free, and you pay us nothing unless we win.