Since New Jersey is an “at-will employment” state, employers can terminate employees for any reason, or for no reason at all, as long as they do not violate local, state, or federal law. The good news for workers is that New Jersey employment laws provide numerous protections against termination for certain reasons and in certain ways. An employer cannot fire someone primarily because of factors like race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, and others. They cannot terminate an employee in retaliation for protected activities like whistleblowing. Both federal and New Jersey employment laws set limits on mass layoffs. The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires advance notice of large-scale layoffs. New Jersey also has a WARN Act (NJWARN) that provides workers with additional rights. The WARN Act has been in the news recently. A major tech company is facing several class actions under state and federal WARN Acts because of mass layoffs.
The federal WARN Act applies to employers who meet one of the following criteria:
– They have at least one hundred full-time employees; or
– They have one hundred or more full- or part-time employees who collectively work at least 4,000 hours per week.
The NJWARN Act is slightly different. It applies to employers that have been in business for more than three years and have at least one hundred employees.
Both laws require employers to give notice at least sixty days in advance of mass layoffs that will result in five hundred or more employees losing their jobs in a thirty-day period. The WARN Act requires notice to all affected employees or their union. The NJWARN requires employers to give notice to both the employees and their union.
One of the key differences between the two laws involves severance pay. The WARN Act does not require an employer to provide laid-off employees with severance. Under the NJWARN Act, an employer must pay severance if it does not provide notice at least sixty days ahead of the layoffs. The amount is equal to one week of the employee’s regular pay for each year they worked for the employer.
The tech company mentioned above is facing at least two putative class actions for alleged WARN Act violations. In late October 2022, the company came under new ownership. Without going into detail that is not relevant to this post, the changeover has been controversial. The company began announcing layoffs within a few days. Media reports have suggested that the company planned to lay off about half of the company’s workforce, about 3,700 people.
The lead plaintiff in the first lawsuit alleges that they were fired on November 1 with no advance notice. Other plaintiffs in that lawsuit say that they were locked out of their company accounts a few days later. They filed the lawsuit on November 3 “to ensure that [the defendant] comply with the law and provide the requisite notice or severance payment in connection with the anticipated layoffs.” The plaintiff in the second lawsuit states that the company laid him off on November 12 with no advance notice.
If you believe your employer has harmed you by violating state or federal employment laws, you need a knowledgeable and experienced advocate who can help you fight for your rights. The employment attorneys at the Resnick Law Group represent workers in New Jersey and New York in a wide range of claims. Please contact us online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997 today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your rights and options.