ONEONTA, N.Y. – After hundreds of Friendly’s employees were laid off with little to no warning last April, Sen. Chuck Schumer is looking to close a loophole in the WARN Act that would prevent this from happening to others.
Schumer and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown introduced the Fair Warning Act of 2019 to the Senate to strengthen the WARN Act. The legislation would limit the circumstances under which employers are allowed to lay off large numbers of employees without giving them advance notice.
Friendly’s shut down 14 locations across the state, including restaurants in Oneonta and Syracuse.
“No matter how you look at it, the way the abrupt closures of Friendly’s restaurants went down across the state was anything but friendly to Upstate workers. The incidents, however, did reveal gaping loopholes in the WARN Act that allow companies to callously lay-off employees without so much as a day’s notice, and they need to be closed immediately,” said Senator Schumer. “No Upstate employee should show up to their workplace in the morning, only to find that it had been shuttered overnight.”
According to Schumer, many employees at the various Upstate New York locations were unaware of the closures and still showed up for work the next day, only to be blindsided by the fact that they were out of a job.
The WARN Act as it stands does not require companies to provide advanced notice if less than 50 employees are being let go, and only applies to companies with more than 100 employees.
In an effort to close these loopholes, the Fair Warning Act of 2019 would:
• Lower the WARN compliance threshold from 100 employees to 50 employees, and create a requirement that any company with $2 million in payroll must abide by the WARN Act
• Define a site closing as a shutdown that results in an employment loss of five or more during a 30-day period
• Define a mass layoff as a reduction of force 10 employees at a single site during a 90-day period or any layoff that impacts 250 total employees within an organization, regardless of how many of the layoffs happen at an individual site
• Eliminate the distinction between part time and full-time employees under the WARN Act. Right now, only full-time employees trigger WARN Act protections. The Fair Warning Act of 2019 would change that and ensure that state rapid response teams are better notified to connect with affected employees.
• Create an enforcement mechanism which holds bad actors liable back pay and benefits for each calendar day of WARN violations.
Congress originally passed the warn act in 1988, to protect the rights of U.S. workers in the event of a mass layoff.
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