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A WARN Act Primer for Employers

You’ve heard it a million times: finding a new job is easiest if you’re already working. It’s one of life’s great ironies, but it is seemingly true. That’s why sudden business closures and layoffs with no warning can have such a dramatic effect on those facing unexpected unemployment. In just the first quarter of last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported over 150,000 layoffs in the private sector alone.

Federal law seeks to help employees facing displacement by requiring large employers to notify employees prior to any mass layoffs or changes that impact their employment status. As an employer, if you know those changes are coming, it’s only fair you give employees a heads-up.

Generally, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) requires employers to give a 60-day period before any event causing termination, such as mergers, acquisitions, or downsizing, during which the displaced employees can look for new work, or prepare for a period of unemployment. Failure to provide this notice can lead to certain penalties against the employer depending on the circumstances.

As with most laws, the WARN act has certain requirements and exceptions to it’s application that employers should be aware of. For example, its provisions do not apply to small businesses with only a few employees, or to layoffs of short-term employees. A local employment termination attorney can help to clarify the Act’s requirements.                                                                                 

Oregon has adopted the WARN Act provisions with some unique applications that differ from the federal law and from other states. Additionally, in adopting the WARN Act, Oregon’s Workforce Development Department created a special Dislocated Worker Unit that employers can direct employees to who will be impacted by downsizing or layoffs.

Facing unemployment can leave a person feeling pretty helpless, and the WARN Act operates to ease that transition period for employees. If you anticipate a change in your business that may impact the employment status of a number of your employees, a local employment attorney can help you understand the WARN Act’s applications, and whether or not the notice you provide your employees is adequate.

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