- The owners of a Bay Area Kome Japanese Seafood & Buffet have agreed to pay $2.6 million to settle charges brought by California's Labor Commissioner's Office alleging it failed to provide minimum wage, overtime and split shift premium pay to 133 workers.
- The agreement compensates workers for Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) violations, which the restaurant allegedly committed by closing without notice.
- The Labor Commissioner's Office launched its investigation after receiving complaints from workers who reported wage theft. Settlement payments range from $20 to $47,253 with an average of $14,217 per worker, according to a statement. The settlement includes $55,000 in civil penalties payable to the state.
The WARN Act requires employers with 100 or more employees to provide at least 60 calendar days' advance written notice of "qualified plant closings and mass layoffs."
As businesses shut their doors because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, lawsuits alleging WARN Act violations follwed. Earlier this summer, a former Enterprise Rent-A-Car employee sued the company on behalf of herself and "approximately hundreds" of former employees, alleging that it failed to provide advance notice of layoffs as required by the WARN Act. The lead plaintiff claimed Enterprise terminated her employment and the employment of other putative class members without cause and without advance written notice due to COVID-19.
In a class action lawsuit filed this spring, two former workers for Hooters claimed the company violated the WARN Act when it undertook a mass layoff without notice on March 25. The plaintiffs said they and approximately 679 other similarly situated workers are owed 60 days' compensation and benefits because of the alleged notice violation.
In addition to federal requirements, many states have their own WARN-like laws that may provide workers with more protections than the federal law. Some states recently relaxed the notice requirements for pandemic-related layoffs, however. For example, in January, New Jersey became the first state to require increased notice time, as well as severance pay, for certain plant closures, transfers and mass layoffs. But after the pandemic's onset, the state amended the law to exclude any layoff resulting from national emergencies from its definition of "mass layoff." California also amended its WARN Act. Gov. Gavin Newsome suspended the usual notice requirements of the state's WARN Act for as long as the state of emergency declared as a result of COVID-19 is in place.