New Jersey Legislature Expands Scope of Mass Layoff Law

Mass layoffs can create problems for employees, their families, and, in some cases, entire communities that depend on a single employer. Federal and New Jersey employment laws attempt to limit the impact of large-scale worker layoffs by requiring employers to give advance notice to workers who will be included in an upcoming layoff. The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act of 1988 requires covered employers to give sixty days’ notice for sufficiently large layoffs. New Jersey enacted its own law, the Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act or “New Jersey mini-WARN Act,” in 2007. The legislature enacted a bill expanding the mini-WARN Act in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with its implementation. A new bill, signed into law by the governor in January, changes the bill’s effective date to April 10, 2023.

The New Jersey law gets its official name from a 2004 plant closing in Millville that reportedly resulted in the loss of several hundred jobs. It became law in December 2007 and took effect immediately. Prior to the legislature’s 2020 amendments, the statute applied to employers with at least one hundred full-time employees. It defined a “part-time employee” as anyone who worked less than twenty hours per week on average or had worked for the employer for less than six months. The statute applies to layoffs at “establishments,” defined as locations that an employer has operated for more than three years.

The mini-WARN Act applied to mass layoffs, also known as reductions in force (RIFs) that affected either:
– Five hundred or more employees at an establishment; or
– Fifty or more employees at an establishment, provided that they comprise at least one-third of the total number of people employed at that location.
Employers had to give notice at least sixty days in advance of a RIF. The statute required them to pay severance to any employee to whom they did not provide the required notice. The amount was equal to one week of pay for each full year of employment.

The bill amending the mini-WARN Act originally became law on January 21, 2020. It was supposed to take effect on July 19 of that year, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the bill’s effective date for nearly three years. A new bill, signed on January 10, 2023, set a new effective date of April 10.

The bill signed in 2020 makes the several changes to the provisions of the mini-WARN Act described above:
– The law will apply to employers with one hundred or more employees, including both full-time and part-time workers.
– Any RIF that affects at least fifty employees at all establishments statewide will count as a covered mass layoff. This will include on-site employees and remote workers.
– Employers must provide 90 days’ advance notice before a RIF.
– Every laid off employee will be entitled to severance pay equal to one week for each full year of employment.
– If an employer fails to provide timely advance notice, those employees will be entitled to an additional four weeks of pay.

If you have suffered harm because of your employer’s mass layoff or unlawful workplace practices in New Jersey or New York, an experienced and knowledgeable advocate can help you fight for your rights. The employment lawyers at the Resnick Law Group are available to answer your questions and discuss your options. Please contact us today online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997 to schedule a confidential consultation.

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