Businesses that plan to lay off enough workers to trigger the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act must give 60 days’ notice to employees and state officials. That’s supposed to allow state Rapid Response teams enough time to start helping find new jobs for soon-to-be displaced workers.
But the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), the agency that responds to mass layoffs, says in many cases employer cooperation is grudging at best.
DEED staffers rated downsizing employers based on four questions:
- 1. Is the employer operating within the spirit of the federal WARN Act
- Has the employer provided a full list of employees to be laid off—with names, addresses and job titles to employees and state and local officials?
- Has the employer agreed to allow on-site orientations and meetings?
- Has the employer allowed Rapid Response orientations to take place prior to the first layoffs?
About half of the employers DEED dealt with last year answered “yes” to just two of the four questions, indicating that they were only “minimally cooperative” with the agency’s efforts.
State officials readily acknowledge that they lack the resources or enforcement clout to force employers to cooperate. Similarly, the bad press associated with pressuring employers that are reeling from economic conditions does little to make the agency more effective or help displaced workers.
Critics of the WARN Act claim its 60-day notification requirement is unrealistic in today’s fast-moving economy. Often, employers are forced to cut workforces with little or no warning.
Employers that fail to provide 60 days’ notification may be on the hook for paying the employees for 60 days after the actual notification, even if the employees are not working.