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California WARN Act Applies to Temporary Layoffs

January 4, 2018 by

Both state and federal law requires employers to give advance notice before initiating a “mass layoff” to avoid the disruptive effects to workers and their communities. The federal and California laws are each called the WARN Act. A California court of appeal has now decided that California’s version of the WARN Act requires employers to give advance notice even where the layoffs are temporary.

The California WARN Act requires 60 days’ notice to affected employees before a layoff. The statute defines a “mass layoff” as a plant closing, layoff, or relocation that affects 50 or more employees within a 30-day period.

In this case, the employer – without giving 60 days’ advance notice – laid off approximately 90 workers for four to five weeks due to a lack of work at its shipyard. The union sued, claiming that the California WARN Act required notice for this temporary layoff.

The employer argued that its action was not a “layoff,” but a “furlough” or a “manpower reduction” that did not require the 60 days’ notice. And, the employer pointed to the federal version of the WARN Act which has been held to not apply to temporary layoffs.

The court of appeal rejected the employer’s argument and held that advance notice was required even though the layoffs were temporary. The court examined the California WARN Act’s definition of a layoff – a “separation from the position” – to conclude that it covers temporary layoffs and is not conditioned on termination of the employment relationship.

In distinguishing the California WARN Act from its federal counterpart, the court concluded that the California Legislature intended to provide greater protection to workers than under federal law.

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