What is a mass layoff?
There is no common definition for a mass layoff. That said, under certain circumstances where employers layoff or fire employees, it may trigger various duties that the employer owes to the employees and public.
For example, under the federal Workers Adjustment Retraining and Notification Act (WARN Act), a mass layoff occurs for covered employers when over a 30-day period (sometimes extended to 90-days) at a single worksite it lays-off 500+ employees or between 50 and 499 employees, if the latter constitutes at least 33% of the employer's active workforce. If that occurs the employer must then give eligible employees at least 60-days’ notice of their impending layoff or termination, and must notify designated state and local authorities, as well as any involved union representative. There are exceptions to these rules and nuances, and complexities to handling a WARN Act situation, but this is the gist of how this law identifies and triggers mass layoff requirements.
In addition to the WARN Act several states have what are called mini-WARN Acts. These states might have their own thresholds for who is and is not a covered employer, who eligible employees are, when a layoff triggers a responsibility, what the notification requirements are and other definitional differences with the WARN Act. At their core, however, these state laws seem to create triggering responsibilities for employers at thresholds lower than those required by the federal law. A few examples to illustrate this:
- California - Covered employers have 75+ employees, both full-time and part-time (vs. 100+ full-time under the WARN Act)
- Illinois – Covered employers have 25+ employees; mass layoffs trigger at 25 employees if it constitutes at least 33% of the worksite employees
- Iowa – Covered employers have 25+ employees; mass layoffs trigger at 25 employees
- New York – Covered employers have 25+ employees; mass layoffs trigger at 250 employees, or 25 employees if it constitutes at least 33% of the worksite employees
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