- California Gov. Gavin Newsom has suspended the usual notice requirements of the Cal-WARN Act amid the coronavirus crisis that is forcing many businesses to close on short notice.
- In a March 17 Executive Order (EO), Newsom suspended — retroactive to March 4th through "the end of this emergency" — the notice provisions for any employer ordering a mass layoff, relocation or termination at a covered business when the closure was caused by unforeseeable business circumstances related to COVID-19.
- California employers covered by the EO are still required to provide the required written notices, provide as much notice as possible and explain why the notice period was shortened. They also must now include a statement that affected workers may be eligible for unemployment benefits.
The federal WARN Act requires employers with 100 or more employees (usually excluding those who have worked less than six months in the last 12 months and those who work less than 20 hours a week on average) to provide at least 60 calendar days' advance written notice of a plant closing or mass layoff affecting 50 or more employees at a single site.
The law provides some exceptions, including when layoffs occur due to natural disasters or at the conclusion of a temporary project. Additionally, notice is not generally required if a layoff is for 6 months or less, or if work hours are not reduced 50% in each month of any six-month period.
In addition to information for employers, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) offers a WARN resource for workers. Notably, "although ... employers may take solace in the 'unforeseeable business circumstances' exception within the federal WARN Act regulations — for which COVID-19 likely qualifies — not every state has the same exception," according to a Squire Patton Boggs blog post.
Many states, including California, have their own so-called mini-WARN laws that provide workers with greater protections than federal law. Employers must ensure they meet the notice requirements of both state and federal law when they lay off workers.