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New York business owners’ responsibilities under the WARN Act

On Behalf of | Aug 29, 2022 | Employment Law

No business wants to lay off employees. However, it’s sometimes necessary. Often it involves the closing of a plant or moving of administrative offices to another city or state.

A large layoff affects not just the employees whose names are on that dreaded list and their families. It also affects businesses adjacent to the company experiencing the layoffs, like restaurants, gas stations and daycare centers.

If the business and/or the layoff is large enough, such as when a plant closes, it can impact an entire community. That’s why there are Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) laws.

Our state law is stricter than the federal version

The federal WARN Act requires organizations with 100 or more employees to give at least 60 days’ notice. However, there are no enforcement provisions for those companies that don’t comply.

The New York State WARN Act requires businesses with at least 50 full-time employees anywhere in the state to provide at least 90 days’ notice of layoff involving a:

  •         Closing affecting at least 25 full-time employees
  •         Layoff involving at least 33% of employees at one site
  •         Layoff affecting a total of at least 250 full-time employees overall

Other events, including mass reductions in hours, must also be reported.

Who has to be notified?

Besides affected employees, businesses must give the New York State Department of Labor the required notice. They must also notify local governmental official entities including the:

  • Mayor or other chief elected official of the impacted locality(ies),
  • Local Workforce Development Board (LWDB)
  • Local school district(s)

The reasoning is that these local entities need to be ready for a large jump in people seeking jobs, unemployment insurance and other resources, like training programs.

Businesses that don’t comply with the notification terms of the New York WARN Act may have to pay a civil penalty as well as back pay and benefits to laid-off employees.

What if you can’t give the required notice?

As we’ve seen over the past couple of years, businesses can be affected by an unexpected event that requires closures and mass layoffs. Exceptions can be made so they aren’t stuck paying penalties for an unavoidable situation. It’s just necessary to make those notifications as soon as possible.

If you have questions about your responsibilities under New York’s WARN Act or if you’re facing penalties you believe are unwarranted, it’s wise to seek legal guidance.