How to WARN Act Impacts Company Layoffs

layoffs, fired, termination, cutbacks

What is the WARN Act?

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988 (WARN Act) is a United States labor law which protects employees, their families, and communities by requiring most employers with 100 or more employees to provide sixty- (60) calendar-day advance notification of plant closings and mass layoffs of employees. It became law in August 1988 and took effect in 1989. In 2001, there were about 2,000 mass layoffs and plant closures which were subject to WARN advance notice requirements and which affected about 660,000 employees.

Employees entitled to notice under the WARN Act include managers and supervisors, hourly wage, and salaried workers. The WARN Act requires that notice also be given to employees’ representatives (i.e. a labor union), the local chief elected official (i.e. the mayor), and the state dislocated worker unit.

The advance notice gives workers and their families transition time to adjust to the prospective loss of employment, to seek and obtain other employment, and, if necessary, to enter skill training or re-training programs that will allow these workers to successfully compete in the job market.

Exceptions to the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988

There are a few exceptions to the rule from what I have found:

  • Closes a facility or operating unit because of a strike or a worker lock-out, and the closing is not intended to evade the purposes of the WARN Act.
  • If a plant closing or a mass layoff results in fewer than 50 workers losing their jobs at a single employment site;
  • If 50 to 499 workers lose their jobs and that number is less than 33 percent of the employer’s total, active workforce at a single employment site;
  • If a layoff is for 6 months or less; or
  • If work hours are not reduced 50 percent in each month of any 6-month period.

Sometimes employers don’t care if they are violating WARN. Sometimes they just don’t know. I am not a labor lawyer, so if you think your employer is violating (or has violated) this act, talk to an employment lawyer. Long story short, if a large company is going to make some mass layoffs, they have to report it to Uncle Sam. As such, you can look it up. Here are a few examples of reports you can download ( for free ) courtesy of your tax dollars.

To find WARN notices for your state, contact the Department of Labor for your state. Click here for full details on WARN from U.S. Department of Labor.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. says

    I second the previous comment – but have also heard of several instances where companies deliberately do not abide by WARN. We need to ensure that all employees are aware of this!


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