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Tell State and Community When Big Layoffs Are Coming

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Q. Our company has been unable to secure financing and will run out of cash in the next four to six months. We may have to shut down and lay off all 200 workers. At what point do we have to notify employees of the possible closing? —R.Y., Maryland

A. Under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, commonly known as the plant-closing law, employers with 100 or more employees must give at least 60 days advance written notice of a “plant closing” or “mass layoff.”

The law generally defines plant closings as occurring when 50 or more employees will be terminated. The law says a mass layoff occurs when at least one-third of the work force—but not less than 50 workers—will be laid off during any 30-day period or longer. If 500 or more workers are laid off, notice is required even if the affected number of staff is less than one-third.

If you meet any of these criteria, you must give notice to: 1. The exclusive bargaining representative of the affected employees. If there is no such representative, you must notify the employees themselves. 2. The chief elected local official where the layoff is taking place—usually the mayor or city manager. 3. The state dislocated-worker agency, which helps workers who lose their jobs. (If the state doesn't have such a unit, then you must notify the governor.)

Like other states, Maryland has its own plant closing law, so remember to check your state statute.

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