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One worksite or more? It matters for WARN

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in Firing,Human Resources

Employers anticipating a layoff of at least 50 workers must notify them in advance under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. The law requires employers to provide 60 days’ notice of any location shutdown or reduction in force that includes 50 workers and represents 33% or more of the workers at the location.

The rules are specific. Employers with multiple locations don’t have to aggregate the numbers unless the locations are separate facilities within reasonable geographic proximity of one another and are used for the same purpose, plus share the same staff and equipment.

In other words, the more centralized the management and direction and the more equipment and staff are shared between locations, the more likely a court will consider the separate locations to be part of the same operation.

Recent case: Trinidad Drilling operated multiple oil drilling rigs across Texas and Oklahoma. Each employed the same type of workers and used the same sort of equipment. Sometimes, workers were moved from one rig to another. Some supervisors managed several rigs.

More than 50 workers were laid off at three different rigs in Texas and Oklahoma. None received a WARN notice.

They sued, alleging that since more than 50 workers had been terminated, the company violated the law and owed them back pay, plus penalties.

But they weren’t able to prove that the three operations were essentially one. While there was some overlap in management, the rigs weren’t in close proximity to one another. Plus, none of the employees worked at multiple locations. The case was dismissed. (Sisney v. Trinidad Drilling, No. 15-CV-132, WD TX, 2017)

Final note: Before laying off many employees at separate locations, consider whether the locations could be considered one for WARN purposes.

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