Studies show that as many as 98% of CEOs are anticipating a global recession in the next 12-18 months, which means that companies have already started focusing on cutting costs and redistributing resources to best position themselves to survive. One of the largest cost centers on any company’s balance sheet is its workforce. As such, layoffs or other reductions-in-force (RIF) have already started to hit, and will likely continue. What’s different this time around? Because of the ups and downs in the market, and phenomena like the “great resignation” and remote work on a scale never seen before, there is a greater likelihood that more employers will find themselves potentially triggering the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988 (WARN Act) (and analogous state laws, known as state “mini-WARN acts”) statutes. These statutes impose notice and information obligations, which can be tricky to keep track of, and carry potentially heavy penalties for noncompliance.

What to do?  Employers who see a layoff on the horizon — and even those who may have already undertaken layoffs — should revisit the requirements of WARN (and state mini-WARNs) now, and keep the following “WARN-ings” and practice tips in mind as they work with counsel.

What is WARN and what WARN-ings should companies watch out for?

In short, WARN requires employers to give advanced notice to affected employees in the event of a covered mass layoff or plant closing. Under the federal WARN, employers must provide 60 days’ notice of termination to the impacted employees, union representatives (if applicable), and certain government authorities. Under some state mini-WARN acts, 90 days’ notice is required.

Which employers are covered?

Under the federal WARN Act, covered employers are employers with:

  • 100 or more employees, excluding part-time employees and those with less than 6 months of service in the last 12 months, or
  • 100 or more employees, including part-time employees, who collectively work more than 4,000 hours per week, excluding overtime.

WARN-ing: State mini-WARN acts often have lower thresholds for covered employers.

When is notice required?

Under WARN, covered employers need to provide notice if a triggering event–a “mass layoff” or “plant closing”–occurs.

Mass layoff: A mass layoff is a reduction in force that (i) does not result from a plant closing, and (ii) results in an employment loss at the single site of employment during any 30-day period for:

  • at least 50-499 covered employees if they represent at least 33% of the total active workforce, or
  • 500 or more covered employees.

Plant closing: A plant closing is the permanent or temporary shutdown of a single place of employment or one or more facilities/operating units resulting in an employment loss during a 30-day period for 50 or more covered employees.

How should employers calculate the time frame to determine when WARN notice is required?

WARN always requires aggregating the employment losses that occur over a 30-day period.

WARN also requires aggregation of the employment losses that occur over a 90-day period that did not, on their own, trigger WARN notice, unless the employer can show that the layoffs were the result of separate and distinct causes and are not an attempt to evade WARN.

WARN-ing: Therefore, employers should look ahead and behind 90 days and add up layoffs that have occurred and any planned layoffs to determine whether separate layoffs may trigger notice requirements under WARN.

Continue Reading Employer WARN-ing: Layoffs Could Trigger WARN Notice Requirements this Time Around

Effective January 1, 2023, California employers must continue to provide notification to employees of COVID-19 exposure in the workplace through 2023, but will be able to satisfy the notification obligation by displaying a notice in the workplace. On September 29, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 2693 into law, revising and extending the existing obligation for

Special thanks to Melissa Allchin and Matthew Gorman.

Federal agencies have renewed their focus on job postings that discriminate against protected groups, even when there is no clear intent to be discriminatory. As evidenced by a significant increase in investigations and fines levied over the past four months, the Department

Special thanks to guest contributor, Melissa Allchin

COVID-19 has been a mainstay for over two years now. Notwithstanding the pandemic’s devastating impacts, employers (and employees) have tired of thinking about COVID-19, and are ready to allocate their energy and resources to other pressing matters, such as the economic crisis or transformative geopolitical events.

Though

Summer in Chicago always brings welcome change, but the end of the Illinois legislative session in the spring can mean a flurry of new obligations in the summer for Illinois employers. This year is no exception. We highlight five changes Illinois employers should be aware of as they prepare their workforce for this summer and beyond.

  1. The Illinois CROWN Act makes workplace hair discrimination illegal

On June 29, 2022, Governor Pritzker signed the Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act (“CROWN Act”) into law, banning race-based hair discrimination by employers in Illinois. Specifically, the CROWN Act, which is effective January 1, 2023, expands the definition of “race” under the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) to include “traits associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.” Though a similar law, Illinois SB 817, was signed into law in August 2021, it only prohibited schools from issuing policies on hairstyles historically associated with race or ethnicity. The CROWN Act, expands the protection by prohibiting race-based hair discrimination in employment, housing, financial transactions and public accommodations.

Illinois and 16 other states (including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington) and several municipalities have enacted similar CROWN laws. In addition, the US House of Representatives passed a federal CROWN Act in March of this year which would make hair discrimination illegal in all 50 states if passed, but the bill has not yet been approved by the Senate.

What should Illinois employers do now?

Illinois employers should:

  • Revise employee handbooks, with a particular focus on grooming policies, to ensure they emphasize compliance under the CROWN Act.
  • Train managers / supervisors, HR and employees on the CROWN Act to mitigate the possibility of race-based hair or trait discrimination under the CROWN Act and other applicable anti-discrimination laws.
  1. New sexual harassment prevention obligations for Chicago employers

On April 27, 2022, the Chicago City Council passed Substitute Ordinance 2022-665, amending the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance and creating new obligations for Chicago employers relating to sexual harassment prevention. The amendments became effective July 1, 2022.

Here are the key changes Chicago employers need to know:

New written policy requirements

Employers must have a written policy prohibiting sexual harassment as of July 1, 2022. The written policy must include:

  • The definition of sexual harassment in Section 6-10-020, which has been revised to specifically include sexual misconduct: “any (i) unwelcome sexual advances or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature; or (ii) requests for sexual favors or conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, or (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for any employment decision affecting the individual, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment; or (iii) sexual misconduct, which means any behavior of a sexual nature which also involves coercion, abuse of authority, or misuse of an individual’s employment position.”
  • A statement that sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago, as well as a statement that retaliation for reporting sexual harassment is illegal in Chicago.
  • Examples of sexual harassment.
  • Details on how an employee can report an allegation of sexual harassment, including, as appropriate, instructions on how to make confidential reports (with an internal complaint form) to managers, corporate headquarters, human resources, or other internal reporting processes.
  • Information about legal services, including governmental agencies, available to employees who may be victims of sexual harassment.

The written policy must be made available to employees within their first calendar week of starting employment, in the employee’s primary language.

The Chicago Commission on Human Relations (the “Commission”) has provided model sexual harassment policies in several languages on its website.

New training requirements

The written policy also must include a requirement that all employees participate in annual sexual harassment prevention training–and employers are required to mandate their employees participate in the trainings beginning July 1, 2022, meaning that by June 30, 2023 all employees must receive their first round of required annual training. Specifically:

  • All employees must participate in a minimum of one hour of sexual harassment prevention training annually
  • Supervisors / managers must participate in a minimum of two hours of sexual harassment prevention training annually
  • All employees must also participate in a minimum of one hour of bystander training annually

The State of Illinois model sexual harassment prevention training program, which provides one hour of training, is sufficient for the sexual harassment prevention training for employees. In addition, training templates and materials for the additional hour of training (for supervisors / managers) and for the hour of bystander training have been made available to employers on the Commission’s website.

New notice requirements

Effective July 1, 2022, all employers are required to conspicuously display–in at least one location where employees commonly gather–posters, both in English and in Spanish, designed by the Commission about the prohibitions on sexual harassment. The posters are available for download on the Commission’s website.

Recordkeeping requirements

Employers must keep a record of the employer’s written policy prohibiting sexual harassment, trainings given to each employee, and records demonstrating compliance for at least five years–or for the duration of any claim, civil action, or pending investigation relating to the law, whichever is longer. If employers fail to maintain the records, a presumption is created that the employer is in violation of the law (rebuttable only by clear and convincing evidence).

Longer statute of limitations, longer notification period for the Commission, and penalties

Employees now have a 365 day statute of limitations (instead of 300 days) to report all forms of discrimination, including sexual harassment. In addition, after receiving a report of an alleged violation, the Commission has 30 days to notify a respondent (increased from 10 days)–which, according to outreach materials on the amendments, is intended to mitigate retaliation such as denial of a reasonable accommodation request.

Any employer who violates the written policy, training or notice requirements is subject to a fine of between $500-$1000 per day, per offense.

What should Chicago employers should do now?

  • Review sexual harassment prevention training programs for timing and content to ensure they comply with the new law.
  • Determine rollout procedures to ensure all employees receive training before June 30, 2023.
  • Train HR on the new amendments, including recordkeeping requirements.
  • Visit the Commission’s website for helpful model materials.


Continue Reading Illinois Employer Summer Checklist: 5 Recent Changes You Should Know

New York City employers can breathe a short sigh of relief. On May 12, 2022, New York City Mayor Eric Adams signed a bill into law amending New York City’s pay transparency law (Local Law 32 for 2022, which we previously blogged about here, here, here and here), postponing the

New York City employers are one step closer to learning the effective date of New York City’s pay transparency law (Local Law 32 for 2022, the “Salary Disclosure Law”). As we blogged about here, the Salary Disclosure Law will have its original May 15, 2022 effective date postponed to November 1, 2022

Employers across the US are requiring employees to return to the brick and mortar workplace as COVID cases drop, and are looking forward to having employees work together again face-to-face. But employers beware: employees have had little in-person interaction with their colleagues over the past two years, and some employees who were onboarded during the pandemic have only met their coworkers virtually. Employees returning in-person may be rusty when it comes to interacting with others in the same physical space, increasing the risk that lines will be crossed into inappropriate or unlawful behavior. What should employers do as employees return to the office to try to keep claims of discrimination and harassment to a minimum?

  1. Update the company’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies

With a focus on health and safety measures such as mask mandates and vaccine policies for the last two years, updating anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies may not have been front of mind. But employers should review and update these policies now to ensure they comply with any newer laws in the jurisdictions where they have employees-such as Illinois’ Public Act 102-0419, effective January 1, 2022, which specifies that disability discrimination in Illinois now includes discrimination against an individual because of their association with a person with a disability. Updated policies should be distributed to employees, who should be required to acknowledge in writing that they have received and understand them.

  1. Train employees that the company prohibits discrimination and harassmentand requires respect

Employers should also train employees on the company’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies-especially before employees who have been working remotely for months or years return-to increase awareness of what is and is not appropriate workplace behavior. In one study, employees who received sexual harassment training were more likely to indicate that unwanted sexual gestures, touching, and pressure for dates are sexual harassment. Awareness of what is considered unacceptable behavior can help employees think twice before acting, and training showing specific examples of discrimination and harassment-such as actors portraying behavior that could be discrimination or harassment-may help employees understand behavioral boundaries.

Employers should ensure the training covers “to the moment issues” related to discrimination and harassment that may impact the workplace. For example, on March 18, 2021, the US House of Representatives passed the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act (CROWN Act) which would prohibit discrimination based upon hairstyles in employment (as well as in public accommodations, housing, and other venues). Several states already have similar laws in place, including California, New York, Washington and Delaware. Even if the CROWN Act stalls at the federal level, training employees to respect each other-including each other’s hairstyles-can reduce complaints of discrimination.

Another example is microaggressions in the workplace. A recent Future Forum study indicated that only 3% of Black professional workers (compared with 21% of white professional workers) wanted to return to the office full time post-pandemic, after finding they faced fewer microaggressions from colleagues while working remotely. Aside from diversity and inclusion training (which many employers offer to employees), training all employees on the importance of respect in the workplace can keep all employees feeling welcome, included and valuable-whether they’re working remotely or in-person.

Employers should also ensure the training:

  • Explains the company’s structure for reporting concerns of discrimination or harassment
  • Emphasizes that the company prohibits retaliation for making reports or participating in workplace investigations of alleged harassment or discrimination
  • Describes the steps the company takes when handling complaints, and
  • Reminds employees they are subject to discipline for violation of the company’s policies relating to harassment, discrimination, or retaliation.

Some jurisdictions, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New York State and New York City require employers to train employees on workplace harassment. But even if training is not required, employers should train employees before they return to the office-and regularly thereafter-to remind employees what inappropriate behavior looks like, how to report it, and the consequences for not following company policy.

Continue Reading Returning Employees to the Workplace? Consider These Tips to Minimize Discrimination and Harassment

Many thanks to our Franchise, Distribution & Global Brand Expansion  colleagues Abhishek Dubé, Kevin Maher, and Will Woods for co-authoring this post.

Massachusetts’ independent contractor statute applies to the franchisor-franchisee relationship and is not in conflict with the franchisor’s disclosure obligations under the FTC Franchise Rule (the “FTC Rule”), according to