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Layoff Trends Continue: Know Your Rights

California technology layoffs have routinely made the news for the past several weeks. A trend that began with Twitter’s firing of thousands of workers without warning in November 2022 has spread across the industry, with Google, Microsoft, and Facebook parent company Meta laying off tens of thousands of employees in January and the first weeks of February. 

These types of layoffs are significantly different than the frequent cuts made by smaller companies. Industry giants are critical employers within their fields, especially in arenas like technology that require specialized skills. Any significant layoff by a major company can put the laid-off workers at risk of being out of work for months as they compete for available jobs elsewhere. When multiple massive companies in the same field perform layoffs simultaneously, as in the tech industry, competition for the remaining positions gets particularly tight. 

This is why the federal government has instituted protections for workers who have been downsized. Large companies must provide laid-off workers with appropriate notice and compensation or face serious legal penalties. In addition, employees whose rights to notice and compensation are violated can seek compensation against their former employers. 

With many companies trying to prepare for an economic downturn that may not materialize, it seems likely that other industries will see similar layoffs in the future. Whether you’re a recently downsized tech worker or just worried your job may be considered redundant, now is the time to prepare. Here’s what you need to know about your rights during layoffs and how to fight back if you are downsized without appropriate notice.

WARN Laws: Protecting Workers From Unexpected Layoffs

Both the federal and state governments have implemented Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Acts. These laws are intended to give affected workers the time, training, and compensation necessary to help them move on after losing a job. All qualified employers must follow the federal WARN Act. This Act applies to companies that:

  • Have 100 or more employees 
  • Those workers average more than 20 hours a week 
  • Those workers have been employed by the company for longer than six months.

A company that has only recently hired more than 100 employees, employs many temporary or seasonal workers, or primarily consists of part-time workers may not be obligated to follow the WARN Act. 

Companies covered by the law must provide at least 60 days advance written notice before laying off 50 or more workers at a single location, 33% of the company workforce, or 500 or more workers in total. They must give this notice to hourly workers, salaried employees, and managers. They must also notify state officials about the layoff and provide appropriate documentation. The only exceptions are when companies suffer unforeseeable business circumstances such as natural disasters. 

Many states have stricter requirements than this. For example, California’s WARN Act applies to companies with 75 or more full or part-time employees. Employers in the state must provide notice any time they intend to close a plant, require relocation of 100 miles or more, or lay off 50 or more employees in 30 days.

Your Rights Under WARN Laws

WARN laws are intended to protect your rights during layoffs. The goal is to give you time to save money and look for another job without flooding the market with applicants all at once. If your employer doesn’t give you appropriate notice before laying you off, it not only cuts off your income, it actively hurts your future career prospects. 

Understanding your WARN Act rights can help you seek justice. Under the federal Act, you have the right to hold your employer liable for the pay and benefits you should have received during the 60-day notice period. For example, if you were given 30 days’ notice, you could demand your employer to pay you the salary or average wage you would have received during the additional 30 days. You could also demand it continues funding benefits like insurance for another month or pay you the amount it will cost to purchase those benefits independently. 

This can make all the difference to your finances after you have been wrongfully terminated without notice. An additional few weeks or months of compensation can give you the financial cushion you need to find a new job or make changes to your lifestyle. 

Fighting Back Against Unfair Layoffs 

By nature, layoffs performed without appropriate notice affect more than just you. Your colleagues are likely suffering from similar financial hardships and difficult job searches. However, you can fight together to hold your employer accountable for failing to follow WARN laws in your jurisdiction. 

Take the example of Twitter employees who received no notice before being fired in November. Twitter has made severance package offers to many former employees but reportedly tied them to non-disparagement agreements and contracts that waived signers’ rights to take legal action against the company. In addition, these offers were not presented to the former employees until January, two months after the layoffs were performed. 

Instead of accepting paltry severance offers, many ex-Twitter employees have banded together to submit class action lawsuits against the company based on its violation of WARN laws. Should these class action lawsuits be certified, workers could receive not only the backpay and benefits the company owes them but additional punitive damages against Twitter as well. 

This is why you should seek legal counsel as soon as you are laid off without notice. A skilled employment attorney like the experts at the Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman, PC, can help you determine if your employer has violated the WARN Act, whether a severance package is fair, and represent you in court if necessary. Learn more about how our experienced employment lawyers can help you after an unfair layoff by scheduling your consultation today. 

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