Mass layoffs are extremely common in every field and industry. The California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, protects employees, their families and communities by requiring employers to provide a 60-day notice to the affected employees before a plant closing or a mass layoff. Such advance notice gives workers and their families the time to transitions and adapt to the potential job loss. It also gives them time to look for other employment, and if necessary, time to obtain skills or retraining that might be needed to successfully compete in the job market.
What Are Employers Required to Do Under the California WARN Act?
The WARN Act essentially requires covered employers to provide 60-day advance notice (also known as a WARN notice) to employees and some governmental agencies before conducting a:
Mass layoff: Under California law, a mass layoff is defined as the elimination of 50 or more jobs during any 30-day period because of the lack of funds or because positions have been eliminated.
Relocation: This refers to a scenario where a company is moving all or most of its commercial and industrial operations to a new location that is at least 100 miles away.
Termination: A termination or plant closure means that the company has ceased all or most of its industrial and/or commercial operations.
If your employer fails to provide this 60-day WARN notice when in one or more of these situations, employees who are laid off or lose their jobs will have the right under California law to file a lawsuit against their employer for violating the California WARN Act. If you believe that you are being laid off unfairly, it is well advised to schedule a free consultation with an employment attorney to learn your rights.
What the WARN Notice Should Contain
The WARN notice must include the following information:
- Whether the layoff is temporary or permanent
- The date of the layoff and the last date of work
- Contact information for additional information
In addition, the WARN notice must be provided in writing. It is important to note that a verbal announcement does not count legally as a notice. Layoff notices in regular pay statements also fail to meet the 60-day requirement. If your employer notifies you less than 60 days before your layoff date, you may have the basis for a WARN Act lawsuit.
Who is covered under the WARN Act?
The California WARN Act is applicable to a "covered establishment" that employs or has employed in the preceding 12 months, 75 or more full and part-time employees. Employees must have been employed for at least 6 months of the 12 months preceding the date of required notice in order to be counted. Here are some of the exceptions to the California WARN Act:
Disaster situations: The California WARN Act does not apply to mass layoffs, relocations or terminations that are carried out at a time when there is war, natural disaster or some other type of physical calamity. In such scenarios, employers are not required to give notice to employees. For example, if you are working in a factory in California and the factory is damaged or destroyed in a wildfire, your employer does not need to give notice to layoffs made while the factory is being rebuilt.
Temporary or seasonal employment: California's WARN Act does not apply to any terminations or layoffs that occur because a project was of a temporary or seasonal nature. In such cases, workers are hired with the understanding that their services would no longer be needed when the project or work is completed. An example is a retail store that hires employees for the holiday season or a company that hires workers to complete a specific construction project.
Employers seeking capital: California employers are also not required to give a WARN notice if they were actively seeking capital or business and that would have helped them avoid or postpone a relocation or job termination. This exception would only apply if the employer reasonably and in good faith believed that giving the WARN notice would have in some way hampered their ability to get the capital or business.
What Are Your Rights If Your Employer Violates the California WARN Act?
If you have lost your job because of a mass layoff, relocation or plant closure and your employer has not provided you the required 60-day WARN notice, then you may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer seeking damages. Under this law, the damages you can seek are different from what you might seek in a wrongful termination case. You may be entitled to:
- Back pay for the period of the WARN Act violation at the average regular rate you received during the last three years of your employment, or your final pay rate - whichever is higher.
- A potential $500 civil penalty for every day the Act was violated.
- The value of benefits you would have been entitled to during the violation period, including the cost of any medical expenses you incurred, which would have otherwise been covered under employer-provided health insurance.
Any wages your employer paid during the violation period or any payments your employer made to you that were not made to satisfy a legal obligation may be subtracted from your damage amount. If you prevail in a California WARN Act lawsuit against your employer, the court may award you attorney's fees and court costs in addition to other damages.
How a California Employment Attorney Can Help
If you were laid off and your employer did not provide a WARN notice, it is important that you contact an experienced employment lawyer in Los Angeles who can help determine if you have a WARN Act case. The knowledgeable lawyers at Kingsley and Kingsley have a long and successful track record of fighting for workers' rights and holding employers accountable. Call us to find out how we can help you.