Lawmaker proposes Pa. WARN Act

Rep. Mike Zabel has a discussion with his House colleague during voting session in Harrisburg.

Companies in Pennsylvania could be required to give additional notice of mass layoffs or closures under recently introduced legislation.

Rep. Mike Zabel, D-Delaware, is sponsoring House Bill 1034, co-sponsored by several fellow Democrats, to implement Pennsylvania’s own WARN notice requirements. The proposal has been referred to the House Labor and Industry Committee.

The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act requires employers with 100 or more employees (generally 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) to provide at least 60 calendar days advance written notice of a plant closing and mass layoff affecting 50 or more employees at a single site of employment. Employees entitled to notice under WARN include managers and supervisors, as well as hourly and salaried workers. WARN requires that notice also be given to employees’ representatives, the local chief elected official, and the state dislocated worker unit.

States that currently have their own WARN notice requirements in addition to the federal guidelines include California, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

“Business closings can be unpredictable, even when the economy is strong,” Zabel wrote in his legislative memorandum. “A business closing during uncertain and struggling economic times, such as we are seeing now, can happen quickly. Currently, federal law requires businesses with at least 100 employees to provide a 60-day notice when a mass layoff is going to occur. Unfortunately, we have seen that is just not good enough.”

Zabel’s legislation would extend the notice of a closing or a layoff to 180 days for a plant closing with 50 or more employees or a mass layoff of over 500 workers. In addition to workers, municipal leaders and the local Workforce Investment Board would have to be notified. An employer who violates the proposed state WARN act could have to pay employees back pay for each day of violation equal to at least the average regular rate paid to the employee during the last three years of the employee’s tenure or the final regular rate the employee was paid and benefits under the employee benefit plan, including medical. Employers can also be subject to a $500 civil penalty for each day of the WARN Act violation.

“With our unemployment numbers already at high rates, we need to allow these workers time to find new employment and communities to prepare for the revenue losses caused by these actions,” Zabel wrote. “We need to stand with these workers, their families, and their communities while they experience the insecurity and anxiety that is caused by a plant closing or layoff.”


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