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.