By Katherine L. Wood, Esq.
With the prevalence of COVID-related layoffs and reductions in force this year, employers may have recently brushed up on their obligations under the New York State Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (“NYS WARN Act”). However, employers should be aware that the state recently expanded employers’ notice obligations under the WARN Act.
Situations Covered by the NYS WARN Act
The NYS WARN Act is triggered when an employer with a minimum of 50 full-time employees plans to take any of the following actions:
- Closing affecting 25 or more employees;
- Mass layoff affecting 25 or more full-time employees (if the 25 or more employees comprise at least 33% of the total employees at the affected worksite); or
- Mass layoffs involving 250 or more full-time employees.
Standard Notice Requirements
If an employer plans to take any of the actions listed above, it must provide 90 days’ written notice to the each of the following:
- The affected employees;
- The affected employees’ union representatives (if any);
- The New York State Department of Labor; and
- The Local Workforce Investment Board for the locality where the action will occur.
Expanded Notice Requirements
Employers must still provide notice to the above-referenced individuals and entities in situations that trigger the NYS WARN Act. However, the recent NYS WARN Act expansion now requires that employers also provide 90 days’ written notice to the following:
- The chief elected official of the unit(s) of local government and the school district(s) in which the action will occur; and
- Each locality that provides police, firefighting, emergency medical or ambulance services or other emergency services to the worksite affected by the action.
The intention of adding these notice requirements, according to the legislature, is to notify communities and school districts that there may be safety concerns about large abandoned properties and that budgetary changes may be required due to a loss of income.
With COVID-19 cases persisting across NYS, employers who are thinking of closing worksites or conducting mass layoffs must be aware of these expanded notice requirements. Employers who fail to comply with the notice requirements of the NYS WARN Act may be subject to significant monetary damages.