Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act (WARN)

The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act (WARN), 20 C.F.R. § 639, was enacted to provide employees with sufficient advance notice of plant closings and mass layoffs so that they could seek other employment or retraining opportunities. It was also established to gives workers some transition time to adjust to the imminent loss of employment and to afford communities opportunities to assist workers and their families.

Generally, employers with 100 or more full-time employees are covered by WARN. Local, state, and federal government entities and federally-recognized Indian tribes are not covered by WARN.

WARN notices must be given at least 60 calendar days before any plant closing or mass layoff, and an employer may not order a plant closing or mass layoff until the 60 day time period has expired. There are, however, a few exceptions to this general rule. Affected employees (and their representatives) are entitled to receive WARN notices from the employer. Employers must also provide WARN notices to state dislocated workers units and the local government.

An employer that violates WARN may be subject to back pay, benefits, attorneys’ fees, and civil penalties. Employers can reduce their exposure to liability and penalties by showing that they acted in good faith.