California enacted its own Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. Similar to its federal counterpart, California WARN (which will be referred to as a "mini" version) requires employers to provide an advance 60-day notice in case of a mass layoff. The notice should be given to all the involved employees as well as state and local representatives.

The notice must be given to all employees within the company and the notice must provide specific information about the planned layoffs, including whether the layoffs are expected to be temporary or permanent, the expected date when the layoffs will begin, and when the employee will receive a termination letter.

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Do I Have Any Rights If I Am Laid Off?

No, employees don’t have a legal rights to keep their jobs if the company or plant is doing layoffs or downsizing because of financial troubles or have any rights hired into other positions with the company or be considered for rehire. Employers are not prohibited from letting go off workers when financial times are rocky and the company needs to do layoffs for budget purposes.

What Type of Employers are Covered under the California mini-WARN Act?

Under California law, employers are covered if they own a company that employs at least 75 employees.

What Triggers California WARN Application?

Employers are required to provide the 60-day notice in advance of the following events:

  • Mass layoff: when 50 or more employees are separated from their positions permanently or temporarily within a 30-day period.
  • Relocation: when "all or substantially all" operations are moved to another location 100 or more miles away.
  • Termination: when a facility closes and its operations cease completely or substantially.

Comparing Federal and State Laws: What are Some Benefits of California mini-WARN Act?

  • California WARN applies to employers who had employed at least 75 persons (as opposed to at least 100 under federal WARN) within last 12 months.
  • State WARN applies to full-time as well as part-time employees.
  • State law covers plant shutdowns as well as relocations and layoffs of at least 50 employees during a 30-day time period.
  • As long as at least 50 employees are affected, it is irrelevant what percentage of total workforce affected employees make up (federal "one-third" rule doesn't apply).
  • It appears that a parent corporation is liable for failure to provide 60-day notice even when its independently run subsidiary had complied with this requirement.
  • California law doesn't apply to non-profits and quasi-public organizations, making federal WARN scope wider in that respect.
  • Under both laws, failure to give 60-day notice results in liability for back pay and benefits, but state law doesn't limit benefits liability to ERISA plans and doesn't reduce liability by accrued vacations pay.
  • Under California WARN, unemployment insurance benefits continue when employees get paid for employer's violations of state or federal law.
  • In addition to complying with federal WARN requirements, a 60-day notice in California must be served to chief elected city and county officials as well as Local Workforce Investment Board.

What are the Exceptions to the Notice Requirement?

There are several situations that are exempt from the 60-day notice requirement:

  • Temporary or seasonal employees: If the employees were hired with the understanding that their employment was limited to the project or temporary facility, the employer is not required to give notice.
  • Strike: If the plant closing is the result of an employee strike, no notice is required.
  • Offer of transfer: Any employee who is offered a transfer before the layoffs to a facility within a reasonable distance is not considered to have suffered employment loss and is not entitled to notice as long as the new position is not considered constructive discharge.
  • Unforeseeable circumstances: If the layoffs are the result of business circumstances that were reasonably foreseeable at the time notice would be required, or the result of a natural disaster, the notice requirement will be waived.
  • Faltering company: Companies seeking new capital or business to allow them to remain open will not be required to give notice if this would prevent the new capital.  This exception applies only to plant closings.

What are the Penalties for Failure to Provide 60-days Notice?

An employee who is not given appropriate notice under WARN may be able to recover pay and benefits lost during the 60-day period and also attorney fees if you win. This amount may be reduced by any amount paid during that period.

Should I Seek Attorney's Help for Violations of California WARN Act?

If you and other employees were not provided with 60-day notice in advance of a layoff and/or were not compensated during those 60 days, seek help of an experienced California employment attorney. Since California employers should follow federal and the state WARNs, an attorney may find violations of both statues as well as other applicable laws.