WARN Notices by State and Federal WARN Layoff Laws

WARN Notices by State

Typically, there are neither federal or state laws that require employers to provide advanced notice to employees before they are laid off. However, there are some exceptions. The most common layoff advance notice law is the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act). It requires employers to provide employees advanced notice to its workforce who will be impacted by a mass layoff due to a reduction if force (RIF), plant relocation, or plant closure. Most states do not have their own mass layoff notice laws, but instead comply with the federal WARN requirements through the US Department of Labor’s Rapid Response program.

In this article, the federal WARN layoff laws will be discussed and WARN notices by state will be provided. Also, there will be links to states and their general layoff laws including how soon employees must be paid after they are laid off.



Federal WARN Act

The federal government has a notice requirement law that requires an employer to provide its employees with 60-days’ notice when it plans to go out of business or layoff a large number of them. The law is called the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act).

What does the federal WARN law require?



Generally, WARN covers employers with 100 or more full-time employees, not including:

  • employees who have worked less than six (6) months in the last 12 months, and
  • employees who work an average of less than 20 hours a week.

Employers must provide the WARN notice to all employees, including managers, supervisors, and permanent and temporary employees. The notice may be provided by a reasonable method of delivery.

An employer must provide the required notice to full and part-time employees when its closes a plant or effectuates a mass layoff. The number of affected workers is the total number laid off during a 30 day (or in some cases 90 day) period.

A plant closing includes:

  • the closing of a facility for more than six (6) months,
  • the shut down of an operating unit for more than six (6) months, or
  • when 50 or more employees are laid off during any 30-day period at a single location.

A mass layoff occurs when a layoff, lasting at least six months, affects either:

  • 500 or more workers. or
  • at least 33% of the workforce when the layoff affects between 50-499 employees.

What are the penalties for violating the WARN Act?

Employers that fail to properly notify employees of a plant closing or mass layoff may be subject to several different penalties. The employer’s liability and penalties include:

  • up to 60 days worth of back pay wages
  • up to $500 civil penalty for each day of the violation for failing to provide notice to the local government as required by WARN
  • courts can award reasonable attorney’s fees to the prevailing party

Does the WARN Act provide any exceptions to the notice requirements?

The federal WARN law does provide a few narrow exceptions to the 60-day notice requirement. These exceptions, which frequently arise when bankruptcy is an issue, include:

  • if there are unforeseeable business circumstances
  • the business is a faltering company which means that giving advanced notice may ruin the company’s chance of saving its business from going out of business
  • if there is a natural disaster

See US DOL WARN Advisor

WARN Notices by State

Most states do not have their own layoff notice laws, but do operate rapid response offices that coordinate with the US Department of Labor’s state dislocated worker unit. Seven (7) states, California, Illinois, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, have enacted layoff notice laws similar to the WARN Act, often referred to as mini-WARN laws.

The table below lists the WARN Notices by State and outlines each state’s WARN requirements and a link to the state department responsible for receiving WARN notices and dealing with WARN Act issue.

StateState WARN LawRequirements
AlabamaNoSame as the federal requirements.
AlaskaNoSame as the federal requirements.
ArizonaNoSame as the federal requirements.
ArkansasNoSame as the federal requirements.
CaliforniaYesApplies to employers with 75 or more full or part-time employees where 50 or more employees are to be laid off due to a plant closing, mass layoff, or relocation of the employer’s business.  Unlike the federal law, there is no requirement that the number of employees to be laid off constitute a certain percentage of the employer’s workforce.  Relocation is defined as a move to a different location more than 100 miles from the prior location.
ColoradoNoSame as the federal requirements.
ConnecticutNoSame as the federal requirements.
DelawareNoSame as the federal requirements.
District of ColumbiaNoSame as the federal requirements.
FloridaNoSame as the federal requirements.
GeorgiaNoSame as the federal requirements.
HawaiiNoSame as the federal requirements.
IdahoNoSame as the federal requirements.
IllinoisYesApplies to employers with 75 or more full-time employees when:
– 25 or more full-time employees are laid off if they constitute one-third or more of the full-time employees at the site, or
– 250 or more full-time employees are laid off
IndianaNoSame as the federal requirements.
IowaNoSame as the federal requirements.
KansasNoSame as the federal requirements.
KentuckyNoSame as the federal requirements.
LouisianaNoSame as the federal requirements.
MaineNoSame as the federal requirements.
MarylandYesMaryland’s version of WARN, the Maryland Economic Stabilization Act, is voluntary and applies to employers in the industrial, commercial, and business industries with 50 or more employees.  Otherwise, an employer must comply with the federal requirements.
MassachusettsNoSame as the federal requirements.
MichiganNoSame as the federal requirements.
MinnesotaNoSame as the federal requirements.
MississippiNoSame as the federal requirements.
MissouriNoSame as the federal requirements.
MontanaNoSame as the federal requirements.
NebraskaNoSame as the federal requirements.
NevadaNoSame as the federal requirements.
New HampshireNoSame as the federal requirements.
New JerseyYesApplies to employers who have been in business at least three years and have at least 100 employees.  It applies in situations where a covered employer:
– transfers or terminates its operations during any continuous period of 30 days which results in the termination of employment of 50 or more full-time employees, or
– conducts a mass layoff that results in an employment loss during any 30 day period of:
500 or more full-time employees, or
50 or more full-time employees representing one third or more of the full-time employees at the establishment
New MexicoNoSame as the federal requirements.
New YorkYesApplies to private employers with 50 or more workers who layoff at least 25 employees.
North CarolinaNoSame as the federal requirements.
North DakotaNoSame as the federal requirements.
OhioNoSame as the federal requirements.
OklahomaNoSame as the federal requirements.
OregonNoSame as the federal requirements.
PennsylvaniaNoSame as the federal requirements.
Rhode IslandNoSame as the federal requirements.
South CarolinaNoSame as the federal requirements.
South DakotaNoSame as the federal requirements.
TennesseeYesApplies to employers with 50 or more employees, instead of the 100 required by the federal law.  All other federal requirements apply.
TexasNoSame as the federal requirements.
UtahNoSame as the federal requirements.
VermontNoSame as the federal requirements.
VirginiaNoSame as the federal requirements.
WashingtonNoSame as the federal requirements.
WisconsinNoApplies to employers with 50 or more employees, instead of the 100 required by the federal law.  Notice is required when 25 employees or 25% of total employees are impacted, whichever is greater, or at least 500 employees.
West VirginiaNoSame as the federal requirements.
WyomingNoSame as the federal requirements.

Other Layoffs

Beyond mass layoffs and plant closings, federal law does not provide any notice protections to employees. Moreover, because most employers are governing by at-will laws in all states but Montana, employers are only required to give employees prior notice of a layoff if there is an individual employment agreement or collective bargaining agreement.

However, some states have laws that provide employees some layoff protection regarding their final paycheck and the payment of accrued leave benefits, such as vacation leave, paid time off, and sick leave. Below are links to individual states that provide more information about whether business are required to provide employees specific layoff protections that is addition to the WARN Notices by State.

AlabamaKentuckyNorth Dakota
AlaskaLouisianaOhio
ArizonaMaineOklahoma
ArkansasMarylandOregon
CaliforniaMassachusettsPennsylvania
ColoradoMichiganRhode Island
ConnecticutMinnesotaSouth Carolina
DelawareMississippiSouth Dakota
District of ColumbiaMissouriTennessee
FloridaMontanaTexas
GeorgiaNebraskaUtah
HawaiiNevadaVermont
IdahoNew HampshireVirginia
IllinoisNew JerseyWashington
IndianaNew MexicoWest Virginia
IowaNew YorkWisconsin
KansasNorth CarolinaWyoming

Health Care Benefits and Layoffs

Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), employees to whom employers provided health benefits and who are then laid off are protected. COBRA provides laid off employees an opportunity to retain the health benefits provided by their employer for a certain amount of time after the layoff. However, although employees may be able to retain the health insurance benefit, they will be required to pay for the full amount of the premium. The employer would not be required to continue to pay their portion of the premium if that was a benefit provided to the employee when they were employed.

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