The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN)

Source: Congressional Research Service, RL31250, July 9, 2009

Congress has passed legislation to facilitate the reemployment of workers who through no fault of their own are let go by their employers. Among these laws is the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, P.L. 100-379, enacted in 1988. The WARN Act requires employers to provide written notice to displaced workers or their representatives, state dislocated worker units or entities designated by the state to carry out rapid response activities, and the chief elected official of a unit of local government at least 60 days before a plant closing or mass layoff is expected to occur. Shorter notice may be provided in three instances. Other exceptions to and exemptions from the notification requirement exist.

Relatively small businesses and small temporary layoffs are not subject to the WARN Act. Firms with 100 or more employees, excluding part-time employees, generally must provide advance notice if a mass layoff is expected to exceed six months. A mass layoff is an employment loss at a job site within any 30-day period affecting (1) 50-499 employees (excluding part-timers) if they make up at least one-third of an employer’s workforce (excluding part-timers), or (2) at least 500 employees (excluding part-time employees). A plant closing is a shutdown of a work site that produces job losses for at least 50 employees (other than part-timers) within any 30-day period.

Although part-time employees are not counted toward the act’s size thresholds, they are entitled to advance notice.

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