Archive for the 'Legislation' Category

FAIR “WARN”ing?

Shell, Intuit, Ormet, Harley Davidson, even the city of Akron Ohio.  These are just the names that came up on page 1 when I did a simple Google news search of the term layoff.  A recent front page article in USA Today explained how this recession is hitting older white males harder than the last recession.  All the news is about the economy, and that should not surprise us.  As was famously said in a recent political race, “It’s the economy stupid?” And on and on it seems to go.  So, where are all the WARN notices?  You guys all know what WARN is:  It’s the Workers Adjustment and Retaining Notification Act, a federal statute and it requires that notice be given to employees and certain government agencies when certain job actions are about to occur.  Under WARN an employer must give 60 calendar days notice of an employment loss to covered employees at a single site of employment in connection with a plant closing or mass layoff. Seems simple right?  Well, for those of you who have ever had to deal with WARN, you know that it is not at all simple.  For example, you have to know what an “employment loss” is and what a “mass layoff” is and what a “plant closing” is.  Now before you say it, it is not as simple as it seems.  Each of those terms is defined in the statute and they don’t have the meanings that simple English gives them.  On top of all this complicated stuff, you also know that some employers will do anything they can to find ways around the reporting requirements.  Well Congress knows that too, and some members of Congress seem to be asking the same question I asked myself recently:  With all the layoffs and plant closings we are hearing about, where are all the WARN notices?

 

Congress must have been asking this question a little more seriously than I have (well that and they have a lot more power than I do), because in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate bills have been introduced to amend WARN.  H.R. 3042 and S. 1374.  The bills do a couple of important things to WARN.  First, they change the definition of employer from someone who employs 100 employees to someone who employs “75 employees.”  Second, they change the definition of plant closing and mass layoff to mean employment loss for 25 employees.  In addition the 60 day notice requirement is extended to 90 days.

 

There is a bunch of other stuff the amendments do, but in short, the so called “Forewarn Act” amends the WARN Act to make it simpler, apply to a lot more situations and close some of the more common loopholes.  We will keep an eye on the Act and see what happens.

WHERE DO THEY COME UP WITH THESE NAMES?

Just when you thought all the really bad ideas were coming out of Washington D.C. these days, our friends in the State House have gone and passed the House Bill No. 4467 entitled the “Worker Freedom Act.”   The summary of the bill says it is a bill to establish the right of employees to pursue “employment free from religious and political indoctrination; . . .” Ok, that sounds all right.  Certainly one of the bedrock principles of this country is the right of every individual to believe and practice what ever religion that individual thinks is best and right for them.  So, a bill to ensure religious freedom should be OK.  Wait a second.  Don’t we already have at least 2 of those?  It seems to me that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal statute that applies to employers with 15 or more employees already prohibits discrimination based on religion.  And for those of you in Michigan who don’t have 15 employees, don’t we have the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, also a law that prohibits discrimination based on religion?  Why yes we do.  So what’s up?  Well let’s just take a nice close look at this Bill.  The bill says: “Except as necessary to comply with another law . . .  an employer or an employer’s agent, representative, or designee shall not require its employee to attend an employer-sponsored meeting or participate in any communication with the employer or its agent or representative if the primary purpose is to communicate the employer’s opinion about religious or political matters.”  Still, what is the problem?  This just means I can’t force employees to listen to me speak on religious or political matters, right?  Well, not so fast my friend.  Let’s look at the definition of “political matter.”  (d) “Political matters” includes political party affiliation or the decision to join or not join any lawful political, social or community group or activity or ANY LABOR ORGINIZATION.”   Wow, joining a labor organization is a political matter and I can’t give my opinion on that?   So, anybody still think this is not such a bad thing?  I’ll bet these are the same people who think the Employee Free Choice Act really gives employees a free choice?  Speaking of the EFCA, wonder how these two bills are going to work together?   Not only will you not get the benefit of a secret ballot election, but you won’t be able to tell your employees how you feel about them joining a union or what the union will do to them.  Nice.

 

This Bill passed the House on a pretty much straight party line vote with only 1 Republican voting for it.  We will keep an eye on it.

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