What Is the WARN Act? Employer Guide 2024

Alex Kehayias | Apr 25, 2024

What Is the WARN Act? Employer Guide 2024

Welcome to our essential guide for the modern employer on the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. Understanding your obligations under the WARN Act is a foundation for ethical business practices.

We’re going to shed light on the WARN Act’s requirements, compliance strategies, and best practices to ensure your business meets legal standards and supports your workforce with the respect and foresight they deserve.

What Is the WARN Act?

The federal WARN Act stands as a beacon of protection for employees in the United States. Officially known as the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, this federal mandate requires businesses with 100 or more employees to provide a 60-day advance notice before implementing mass layoffs or plant closings.

This Act is a pledge to offer transparency and preparation time to affected workers facing employment loss. The Act looks at those losses over a 30-day period. If a plant closes and lays off the last 10 employees 25 days after laying off the first round of workers, it’s considered a covered closing.

Why Does the WARN Act Matter?

At its core, the WARN Act acknowledges the ripple effect that mass layoffs and plant closings have on individuals, families, and communities. By mandating advance notice, the Act enables affected employees to brace for the impact of job loss, offering them a window to seek new employment opportunities or to start retraining programs.

This foresight can significantly ease the transition, encouraging a more resilient job market and workforce development.

Covered Events Under the WARN Act

The Act encompasses two primary scenarios: Mass layoffs and plant closings. A mass layoff is defined as a job cut affecting 50 or more employees at a single site of employment, not including part-time workers.

On the other hand, plant closings refer to the shutdown of a facility or operating unit within a single location, impacting any number of employees. Both scenarios trigger the WARN Act’s 60-day notice requirement, aiming to cushion the blow for employees and allow for a smoother transition.

What Are Employer Obligations Under the WARN Act?

If you’re running a business with 100 or more employees, listen up: The WARN Act is talking to you. We’re zeroing in on full-time employees here, leaving out part-time employees and those who haven’t hit the six-month mark in the last year.

It’s about ensuring that the backbone of your active workforce is covered without getting tangled in the web of temporary or less frequent employment arrangements.

The 60-Day Heads-Up

If your company is on the cusp of mass layoffs or plant closings, the WARN Act asks for a 60-day warning, handing out clear, written notices to the people who need to hear it most: The affected employees.

However, it doesn’t stop there. You’re also tipping off employee representatives, the local bigwigs (think mayors or county supervisors), and those at the state-dislocated worker unit.

When Do the Rules Kick In?

Whether it’s a factory door shutting for good or a sweeping cutback, the WARN Act’s 60-day notice rule springs into action. This is to provide a window of opportunity for those affected to prep for what’s next, whether job hunting or skill sharpening.

Be aware that these notices are mandated by the Department of Labor (DOL). Miss this step, and you might face back pay demands or even civil penalties.

Yes, it’s important to dodge fines, but you also want to foster a culture of respect and readiness in the face of tough transitions. At Mosey, we understand that keeping track of these obligations across state and local legislative bodies can feel like a high-wire act.

That’s why we’re here to offer a steady hand as you fulfill compliance requirements across HR, payroll, tax, registration and labor laws at the state and local levels. You’re embracing a proactive approach to workforce development and compliance with Mosey.

What Are Any Exceptions and Exemptions?

The WARN Act includes provisions for situations that fall outside the norm. These are known as exceptions, which account for times when companies face sudden, unforeseeable business circumstances that prevent them from providing the full 60-day notice. This could include sudden economic downturns or events classified as natural disasters.

For companies on the brink of closure, trying desperately to secure new funding or a buyer, the “faltering company” exception may apply. This exception allows for a reduced notice period under the premise that announcing impending layoffs could jeopardize the company’s recovery efforts.

Understanding the Exemptions

The WARN Act’s reach has its limits. Part-time employees, those working less than 20 hours a week, and employees who have been with the company for less than six months over the past year are exempt from the Act’s notice requirements.

The same goes for temporary projects that were clearly communicated as such from the start, ensuring expectations were set correctly.

What Is the U.S. Department of Labor’s Role?

The Department of Labor, through its Employment and Training Administration, oversees the administration of the WARN Act. While the DOL provides guidelines and information to help covered employers comply with the Act, it does not enforce compliance directly. Instead, enforcement is typically initiated through lawsuits filed by affected employees or their representatives.

Enforcement and Penalties

Employers who fail to comply with the WARN Act’s notice requirements may face lawsuits from employees seeking damages for the lack of notice. This can include up to 60 calendar days of back pay with benefits and civil penalties if the employer knowingly violated the Act.

Different states may have their own versions of the WARN Act, with varying requirements. Employers must be aware of and comply with both federal and state regulations, which can sometimes impose stricter required notice than the federal law.

Staying Ahead of the WARN Act

Having a solid grasp of your workforce dynamics is key to keeping in step with the WARN Act. This means maintaining up-to-date employee records that detail work hours, lengths of service, and whether they’re considered full-time or part-time.

Knowing who the WARN Act applies to at any given time is important for compliance and ensuring you’re on top of your employees’ needs.

Timeliness and clarity in communication cannot be overstressed. When the need for mass layoffs or plant closings arises, delivering a clear, comprehensive WARN notice to all affected parties — including employees, their representatives, and relevant government bodies — meets the necessary legal requirement while respecting your workforce’s right to prepare for the future.

Don’t overlook the resources at your disposal. The State Dislocated Worker Unit, for example, can offer invaluable guidance on operating with the WARN Act’s requirements, ensuring that your notices meet federal and state-specific mandates.

Ready To Simplify Compliance?

Regarding employment law, being prepared is a necessity. The WARN Act requires a thoughtful and organized approach to federal workforce management. Mosey stands ready to be your partner in the journey of business compliance, offering tools and insights that simplify state compliance, allowing you to focus on what you do best: running your business.

We help you turn what used to be a hefty compliance chore into something you can handle in your stride through automation. This means your compliance requirements are completed on time, on point, and in line with the rules.

We tie automation right into your payroll system. This gives you a crystal-clear view of your team, helping you spot when and where new and existing legislation come into play without digging through files or spreadsheets.

Explore how Mosey can revolutionize your approach to business compliance. Book a demo to learn more about o

Read more from Mosey:

Review your compliance risks, free.

Ready to get started?

Sign up now or schedule a free consultation to see how Mosey transforms business compliance.