Brown Set to Introduce Legislation to Improve Warn Act by Providing More Notice for Workers, Holding Employers Accountable

Brown’s Bill Would Expand WARN Act Requirements, Strengthen Enforcement

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) hosted a news conference call to preview legislation, the Fair Warning Act of 2019, which Brown will introduce this week with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to update the WARN Act and hold 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 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. 

“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 I’m joining Senator Schumer to introduce 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 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:  The WARN Act requirements do not apply to employers that have fewer than 100 employees, excluding part-time employees.  The Fair Warning Act of 2019 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. 

Who Gets a WARN Notice:  The WARN Act does not require layoff or closure notification in enough circumstances and allows employers to layoff with no notification including when employees are spread around different worksites or are considered part-time employees.  The Fair Warning Act of 2019 fixes these weaknesses by requiring employers to issue a notice when a layoff affects 10 or more employees at one worksite or 250 or more employees at an employer across multiple sites.  It also requires a notice when a site closing affects five or more employees.

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 2019 prevents employers from ordering a mass layoff or closing a worksite until 90-days’ notice has been provided.  In addition, the Fair Warning Act of 2019 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 2019 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 2019 also protects employees’ right to bring a lawsuit for WARN violations even if the employer says they should be subjected to mandatory arbitration.

Tracking WARN Notices:  The Fair Warning Act of 2019 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.

On the call, Brown pointed to several Ohio examples of workers not getting adequate notice before they were laid off and businesses closed, including Falcon Transport in Youngstown and Atlas Industries in Sandusky County.

When employers decide to lay off employees or close worksites, they make decisions that affect employees’ economic security and, in some cases, the economic viability of communities.  Advance notice of these layoff or closures is critical to helping workers and communities prepare for and get back on their feet after these employer decisions.

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