Employment Law Basics: Layoffs and Plant Closings Under WARN

Employment laws can be confusing and downright scary.

They don’t have to be. As a public service, from now until my special Halloween webinar Answers to the World’s Scariest Employment Law Questions, I’ll be tackling each major law one by one to give you what you REALLY need to know. By the end, you’ll have handy one-page cheat sheets for each and every law and your terror level will be reduced to zero.

Today’s Topic: WARN, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

Here is basically everything you need to know about the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) in one handy post.


What employers are covered?

Employers with 100 or more full-time employees

What does it require?

Employers must provide 60 days advance notice of mass layoffs or plant closings

What is a “plant closing?”

The shut down of an employment location with the loss of:

  • 50 or more employees in 30 days; or,
  • 50 or more employees in two or more events over the course of 90 days.

What is a “mass layoff?”

A workforce reduction that results in either of the following:

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  • A reduction of an employer’s total workforce by at least 33 percent and at least 50 employees;
  • A loss of 500 or more employees.

What is “employment loss?”

  • Termination, other than for cause or a voluntary resignation;
  • Layoffs exceeding six (6)  months;
  • A reduction in hours by more than 50 percent over a six (6) month period.

What are the notice requirements?

  • An employer must provide written notice to affected employees and/or union representatives that is received by those individuals at least 60 days before the event.
  • Notice must also be provided to local government and the appropriate State dislocated worker unit.


In the following circumstance, an employer may avoid the 60 day notice requirement and provide notice as soon as possible:

  • Natural disasters;
  • Unforeseeable business circumstances;
  • Faltering company.

What are the potential penalties?

  • Back pay;
  • Monetary penalties.

Top WARN tips

  • Provide notice of mass layoffs and plant closings as soon as possible.
  • Provide additional notice if the scheduled event is delayed.
  • Pre-sale of business: seller must provide required notice.
  • Post-sale: buyer must provide notice.
  • A sale does not require notice unless it triggers a plant closing or mass layoff.
  • Some states have similar laws that impose different obligations on employers.

This was originally published on Manpower Group’s Employment Blawg.

Mark Toth has served as Manpower Group North America's Chief Legal Officer since 2000. He also serves on the company’s Global Leadership Team, Global Legal Lead Team and North American Lead Team. Mark is recognized as an expert on legal issues affecting the U.S. workplace and is frequently quoted in media from The Wall Street Journal to 60 Minutes. He is also a past Chair of the American Staffing Association and is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources. Contact him at mark.toth@manpowergroup.com.


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