Layoffs, Office Closings, And Your Obligation To Provide WARN Notices
If your company falls on hard times, and you have to lay off employees, you generally can do so without fear of lawsuits; Florida is, after all, an at-will employment state, and there is nothing in any law that says that you can’t lay people off when the company can no longer afford staff.
However, there is one very little known law that can get you in trouble in certain situations: Florida’s WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) Act.
WARN Notices Must be Given
The WARN act doesn’t prevent your business from laying off employees. What it does require is that you notify employees when there are certain adjustments in your business that lay off employees or which constitute a major relocation of your business.
Your business must notify employees, providing 60 days notice, whenever your business plans to close or layoff employees in mass. The events that trigger the requirement to give notice may include:
- Any closing of a facility which results in 50 or more layoffs during any 30 day period
- Any mass layoff, which is defined as laying off 500 or more full time employees, however, this number can be lower, if the lower number constitutes 33% of the full time active employees working for the company.
These requirements include any such layoffs that happen incrementally over 90 days; you can’t evade WARN by laying off people, or closing offices, slowly over time.
Who Must Comply
The requirement applies to any business that has more than 100 full time employees who have more than months of working more than 20 hours per week. Where unions are involved, the business can satisfy the notice requirements by giving notice to the appropriate union representatives.
Exceptions to WARN Notices
You do not have to give a WARN notice, if the closing or layoffs are only temporary, companies that are insolvent, or closings or layoffs that are due to unforeseeable natural disasters or so-called “acts of God” (such as a pandemic and perhaps war or civil unrest).
You also don’t need to give WARN notices, for jobs that were expected and known from the start to be temporary in nature (for example, shooting a movie, or working on a single construction project).
There is another exception for not giving the notice, where the company can show that it was trying to obtain financing to stay financially afloat, and giving notices would have jeopardized those efforts.
Damages for WARN Violations
The damages for WARN violations are relatively low: the business will owe pay and any benefits for the amount of time that the WARN notice’s 60-day window was missed, or cut short. Whoever, since there are often a lot of employees affected, class actions may be brought, or the cost of multiple individual lawsuits can add up.
Call the West Palm Beach business law attorneys at Pike & Lustig today if you have a question about hiring, firing, or laying off employees.