In the past decade, many U.S. workers have become unemployed due to a reduction in force (RIF), mass layoff, downsizing, or business closure. The current economy and high rate of unemployment have left displaced workers with many challenges as they try to secure jobs with similar salary, benefits, and status. The road is tough for those competing in a limited market.
There are several federal and state laws that protect workers from the devastating consequences of unemployment that comes without notice or warning. Employers have a duty to provide their employees with ample time to adjust and plan when they are faced with RIF and mass layoffs. Employers who violate these laws can be held liable and sued by their former employees.
The following are different forms of employee protection from RIF, Mass Layoffs, and Business Closures.
Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act): The federal WARN Act mandates that employers with more than 100 employees who are planning a reduction in force notify workers in writing at least 60 days in advance of their intended mass layoffs or company closing. This law is intended to give employees facing job loss the opportunity to seek alternate employment or pursue education or training for a new career. Employers who violate the WARN Act can be held liable for compensation to employees for the period of time they were not afforded this opportunity.
Anti-Discrimination Laws: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal for an employer to terminate an employee based on race, age, sex, gender identification, religion, pregnancy, or disability. Workers who feel that they were laid off or terminated as part of a reduction in force based on these discriminatory criteria can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), which enforces anti-discrimination laws.
New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) and Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA): Employees who were unfairly targeted in a reduction in force because they were exercising their right for medical leave under the NJFLA or the FMLA can bring suit against their employer. Eligible employees that take leave to tend to protected personal or family health issues are entitled to the same protections and rights of employees who are not out on medical leave. Failure to hold the employee’s position or continue benefits violates these laws.
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA): Employers are legally required to restore members of the military to their jobs when they return from active duty or deployment. Military personnel are also protected from layoffs unless the employer can prove that reinstating the employee would cause them undue hardship.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA): COBRA is a federal law that mandates employers offer the option of continuation of health coverage for a specified period of time to employees and their families affected by a reduction in force or mass layoff. The employee has the right to choose to continue their health coverage at their own expense, but at the rate of benefit provided by their employer.