As we find ourselves firmly in the middle of Q1 of 2023, the avalanche of layoff headlines that started last quarter just keeps coming. Whether you follow the school of thought that the US entered a recession in summer of 2022 (after two consecutive quarters of negative gross domestic product) or not (given a strong labor market and corporate earnings growth), more and more companies are having to address overzealous pandemic hiring and the backlash from soaring company valuations. One comparatively “easy” place for multinational companies to cut costs — US workforces, where employment is generally “at-will” and absent contractual entitlements or triggering statutory notice requirements, layoffs can be carried out relatively quickly. With that said, as always, moving too quickly can create headaches that actually can be avoided — or at least dulled — with a little planning.
Here are four tips to keep in mind when planning layoffs in the US:
- Beware of the WARN(ings)
Larger layoffs have the potential of 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.
Federal WARN requires employers to give advanced notice to affected employees in the event of a covered mass layoff or plant closing. Under the 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. Click here for more on WARN.
- Tip: WARN should become part of the layoff checklists (again), with teams (re)sensitized to the impact on timing and costs if triggered.