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Can My Employer Terminate Me Without Notice? Here’s How the WARN Act Protects You

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act protects employees from a sudden and unexpected loss of employment unrelated to their own negligence. Most employers cannot terminate or lay off employees without advanced notice that allows time to search for alternative employment.

In most cases, the WARN Act applies to employers that intend to downsize or lay off 50 or more employees. The reason for the layoffs doesn’t matter. It applies even if a company goes out of business.

The Act affects companies with over 100 active full-time employees, private and public companies, and all non-profit and for-profit organizations.

According to the law, employees that will be out of work or have their hours reduced by 50 percent or more for six months or longer including permanent termination must be notified in advance.

Furthermore, if a business is sold or transferred to another owner, the current owner must give employees notice of the occurrence. This is true even if there ends up being no layoffs or terminations.

Employees that have worked at a company for six months or less or who work fewer than 20 hours per week are not covered under the act.

The law requires at least 60-days notice.

New York State further strengthens protections offered to employees with its own version of a WARN Act.  The New York law requires businesses to give early warning of closing and layoffs.

According to the law, WARN notices DO NOT need to be submitted to the Department of Labor from businesses that employ fewer than 50 full-time employees. New York’s WARN Act only applies to private businesses with 50 or more full-time employees in New York State.

WARN Act Protects Employees

The goal of both the federal WARN Act and New York’s law is to ensure that anyone affected by a business closing or enacting layoffs knows what’s coming and to prevent unexpected loss of employment. This way, employees and their families have time to prepare. They can search for new employment. Some choose to obtain training in a new skill or retrain existing skills if needed to secure a new job.

Specifically, the WARN Act requires advanced notice when an employer is:

  • Closing a facility that will lead to loss of employment for at least 50 employees. However, the law does not cover employees who work 20 hours a week or less. Nor does it cover employees who have worked less than six months for a company.
  • Laying off at least 500 employees who work on an employer’s site for 30 days.
  • The affected employees should comprise at least 33% of actively working employees at the employer’s site. The act does not cover employees who have worked for less than six months or those who work less than 20 hours a week.

If a business is sold, the seller must provide notice before the sale. Once the sale is complete, the buyer must notify employees that:

  • There will be closures, layoffs, or terminations after the sale
  • The seller intends to keep the existing employees on

If the sale of the business does not lead to closures or mass layoffs, employers are not required to give notice.

What Can You Do If You Do Not Receive Notice of Termination or Layoff?

Should your employer be required under the WARN Act to notify you of an upcoming job loss and fail to do so, you might have a right to seek compensation.

In most cases, this includes back pay and the benefits you would have received during the period of time affected by the violation.

The WARN Act ensures workers and their families have time to prepare for job loss or a significant change in income. Workers affected by layoff or termination can apply for unemployment benefits. However, eligibility for unemployment benefits doesn’t affect the requirement they receive notice of job loss 60 days in advance.

Did your employer terminate you or lay you off unexpectedly? Do you think the WARN Act applies to your circumstances? We can help.

It doesn’t matter whether you worked for a private or public employer. As long as your employer had more than 100 active full-time employees, you could be eligible for compensation. For more information, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to schedule a free consultation.


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