Did Twitter violate the WARN Act?
Recently, Twitter made headlines by laying off thousands in its workforce. In a class action lawsuit, Twitter is being sued for failing to give 3,700 employees (about 50 percent of its workforce) advance notice of mass layoffs. The lawsuit alleges Twitter violated worker protection laws, including the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, by not providing proper written notice.
What is the WARN Act?
The WARN Act of 1988 offers protection to workers, their families, and communities by requiring employers to provide at least 60 days in advance of covered business closings and covered mass layoffs, according to the Michigan Department of Career Development.
Scope of Coverage
Employers are covered by the WARN Act if they have 100 or more employees, excluding employees who have worked less than 6 months in the past year, and who work an average of 20 hours per week. Both profit and nonprofit employers are covered, as are those public entities which operate in a commercial context and are separately organized from the regular government.
What prompts a notice?
When a business closes the employer must give notice if an employment site(s) will be shut down and the shutdown results in an employment loss for 50 or more employees. If the business is not shutting down, but the layoffs result in a job loss for 33 percent of the employer’s active workforce of 50-499 employees, the business is required to provide notice.
Information required in the notice
Employers must provide information about planned layoffs, including if the layoff is temporary or permanent, the expected date the layoff begins, and when the employee will receive a termination letter.
This notice must be provided to either each worker who will be affected or to the labor representative where applicable. Written notice must also be provided to the Michigan Workforce Transition Unit.
Shorter notice is permitted
Shorter notice may be permitted by law if:
- The layoffs are due to unforeseeable business circumstances;
- The cuts are because of a natural disaster that resulted in the business closing; or
- The business is struggling financially. However, the company is required to prove that it was actively pursuing business or money that would have postponed or avoided closing. This exception applies to plant closings only.
Employers should review the Act
Employers should review the Act and may wish to seek counsel to discuss its provisions, including the scope of coverage, penalties, exceptions, and enforcement. The business attorneys at O’Reilly Rancilio are ready to answer your questions about the Act. To learn more, please call 586-726-1000 or visit our website.