Employment Law Guide
Chapter: Plant Closings and Mass Layoffs
Updated: September 2005
Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act
USC §2101 et seq. ; 20 CFR
Who is Covered
The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) generally
covers employers with 100 or more employees, not counting those who have worked
less than six months in the last 12 months and those who work an average of
less than 20 hours a week. Regular federal, state, and local government entities
that provide public services are not covered. Employees entitled to notice
under WARN include managers and supervisors as well as hourly and salaried
WARN protects workers, their families, and communities by requiring
employers to provide notification 60 calendar days in advance of plant closings
and mass layoffs. Advance notice gives workers and their families some
transition time to adjust to the prospective loss of employment, to seek and
obtain other jobs and, if necessary, to enter skill training or retraining that
will allow these workers to compete successfully in the job market. WARN also
provides for notice to state dislocated worker units so that they can promptly
offer dislocated worker assistance.
A covered plant closing occurs when a facility or operating unit is shut
down for more than six months, or when 50 or more employees lose their jobs
during any 30‑day period at a single site of employment. A covered mass
layoff occurs when a layoff of six months or longer affects either 500 or more
workers or at least 33 percent of the employer's workforce when the layoff
affects between 50 and 499 workers. The number of affected workers is the total
number laid off during a 30‑day (or in some cases 90‑day)
WARN does not apply to closure of temporary facilities, or the
completion of an activity when the workers were hired only for the duration of
that activity. WARN also provides for less than 60 days notice when the layoffs
resulted from closure of a faltering company, unforeseeable business
circumstances, or a natural disaster.
Workers or their representatives, and units of local government may
bring individual or class action suits. U.S. district courts enforce WARN
requirements. The Court may allow reasonable attorney's fees as part of any
For general information about WARN, a fact sheet and employer's guide (PDF)
are available from the Employment and Training Administration’s Web site.
Specific requirements of WARN may be
found in the Act itself, Public Law 100-379 (29 USC 2101 et seq.) The
Department published final regulations on April 20, 1989 in the Federal
Register, pages 16042 to 16070 (Vol. 54, No. 75). The regulations appear at
20 CFR Part 639. A copy of the Act and regulations may be obtained from the
U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (ETA), Office of
Adult Services, Division of Adults and Dislocated Workers, Room C-5325, 200
Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20210.
For additional assistance, contact the ETA help line at 1-877-US-2JOBS.
An employer who violates the WARN provisions is liable to each employee
for an amount equal to back pay and benefits for the period of the violation,
up to 60 days. This may be reduced by the period of any notice that was given,
and any voluntary payments that the employer made to the employee.
An employer who fails to provide the required notice to the unit of
local government is subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $500 for each day
of violation. The employer may avoid this penalty by satisfying the liability
to each employee within three weeks after the closing or layoff.
WARN does not preempt any other federal, state, or local law, or any
employer/employee agreement that requires other notification or benefit.
Rather, the rights provided by WARN supplement those provided by other federal,
state, or local laws.
The Employment Law Guide is offered as a public resource. It
does not create new legal obligations and it is not a substitute for the U.S.
Code, Federal Register, and Code of Federal Regulations as the official sources
of applicable law. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information
provided is complete and accurate as of the time of publication, and this will
continue. Later versions of this Guide will be offered at
www.dol.gov/compliance or by calling our Toll-Free
Help Line at 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365).