Federal and state laws require that certain employers give their employees notification prior to a mass layoff or closing. The law related to this is called the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN, and different states have implemented different versions of the federal legislation.
New York State's WARN Act requires a longer notification period than the federal law. The federal WARN Act requires covered employers to notify workers of a closing or layoff 60 days in advance. The New York WARN Act requires notification 90 days in advance. Not all employers are covered, however, nor is every mass layoff.
The New York WARN Act applies to private companies that employ 50 or more full-time employees. For the notification requirement to kick in, a closing must affect at least 25 workers, or a layoff must affect at least 25 full-time workers who make up at least 33 percent of the total number of workers at the location. If a mass layoff affects 250 or more full-time employees, then the percentage of total workers doesn't matter.
In New York, covered employers must provide notification 90 days prior to a closing, mass layoff, relocation or certain reductions in work hours. If a covered employer fails to provide notification, then the employer could be liable for back pay, employee benefits and a civil penalty.
These issues have come up in a recent lawsuit filed against American Apparel in California. That state has its own WARN Act provisions, and the suit claims that American Apparel violated the state and federal laws when it laid off about 200 factory workers.
A recent article provides details on the case.
To learn more about employee rights in New York, please see Serrins Fisher LLP's Employment Law overview.