Senators Introduce Fair Warning Act on 34th Anniversary of the Late Senator Howard Metzenbaum’s WARN Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, to honor the 34th anniversary of U.S. Senator Howard Metzenbaum’s (D-OH) introduction of the WARN Act, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced a revised version of the Fair Warning Act. The senators’ legislation updates the law that the WARN Act established, by holding employers accountable while also giving workers and communities the notice they need to best prepare for, and recover from, employer decisions that cost them their jobs. Workers and their communities deserve to get a fair warning sooner when they are going to be affected by layoffs or business closures. Under current law, too often employers can get away with making these life-changing decisions without giving any warning at all. U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH-13) is introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Workers deserve to be notified before being laid off so they can plan ahead and try to make ends meet for themselves and their families,” said Murray. “But right now, too many workers lack these basic protections—so I’m working with Senator Brown to close existing loopholes and ensure employers give their workers the fair warning they need and deserve.”
“We’ve had too many cases in Ohio of companies closing down and giving workers barely any notice that they’re losing their jobs,” said Brown. “That’s why we’re introducing the Fair Warning Act to hold employers accountable and give workers and communities the notice they need to better prepare for and recover from these layoffs. We cannot accept that the future of work means lower pay, less job security, and fewer workplace protections.”
“The WARN Act intends to provide employees and their communities with fair notice of job loss so that they can take steps to avoid the potentially devasting effects of sudden wage loss and economic uncertainty. The Fair Warning Act recognizes that large employers today have thousands of employees working at smaller sites spread across many communities. The Act would close the loopholes that allow companies to avoid providing notice when hundreds or even thousands of persons lose employment and would provide more meaningful accountability to ensure that working people and their communities receive the fair notice that they deserve,” said John Philo, Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice.
The Fair Warning Act includes a number of provisions that better protect workers, hold employers accountable and improve the WARN Act. The bill makes the following, pro-worker changes to the WARN statute:
Who is Considered an Employer: Current WARN Act requirements do not apply to employers that have fewer than 100 employees, excluding part-time employees. The Fair Warning Act of 2022 expands the statute to apply to any business that employs 50 or more employees, including part-time employees, or has an annual payroll of $2 million. It makes an employer’s affiliate liable when it causes it to violate the WARN Act.
Who Gets A WARN Notice: The WARN Act does not require layoff or closure notification in enough circumstances and allows employers to lay off with no notification including when employees are spread around different worksites or are considered part-time employees. The Fair Warning Act of 2022 fixes these weaknesses by requiring employers to issue a notice when a layoff affects 10 or more employees, including part-time employees, at one worksite or 250 or more employees, including part-time employees, at an employer across multiple sites. It also requires a notice when a site closing affects 5 or more full-time and part-time employees. It requires that employees working remotely be counted and provided notice.
When WARN Notices Are Issued: Currently, employers are required to give only 60 days’ notice in the event of a mass layoff or worksite closure. That’s not enough time for the workers or communities to prepare. The Fair Warning Act of 2022 prevents employers from ordering a mass layoff or closing a worksite until 90 days’ notice has been provided. It requires that temporary layoffs include participation in short-time compensation and a recall date. In addition, the Fair Warning Act of 2022 requires the state to establish a Rapid Response committee and an individual to lead that committee within 20 days of a WARN notice being issued so that affected employees can quickly get the training and other support services they need to prepare for their job loss.
Strengthening WARN Enforcement: The Fair Warning Act of 2022 strengthens enforcement of WARN requirements by making employers liable for liquidated damages equal to 30-days of back pay in addition to the back pay and benefits they owe under current law. The Fair Warning Act of 2022 also protects employees’ right to bring a class action lawsuit for WARN violations even if the employer says they should be subjected to mandatory arbitration.
Tracking WARN Notices: The Fair Warning Act of 2022 requires DOL to create and make public a searchable database of all WARN notices to help the public and policymakers track when and where layoffs and business closures occur.