As a professional woman employed in California, you may at some point be faced with the unexpected: a release from work because of a specific unstable situation experienced by your employer. If the business meets certain criteria, you'll be part of the workforce that receives advance notification of employment termination. Your employer may be required under the California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act to "warn" you of the upcoming change in your employment.
California WARN Act
If you work at a place that employs many people -- 75 or more full- or part-time workers -- WARN requires your boss to give you formal notification if any of these three events happen: mass layoff, which could happen because of no work or no funds to pay workers; relocation to more than 100 miles away that will involve moving the entire operation; or, stopping business altogether because the business is shutting down in its entirety.
What You Can Expect
If any of the three trigger situations occur at your workplace, and you're one of 50 or more employees to be released, you can expect to receive -- in writing -- a notice 60 days in advance of your departure from your job, even if it's just a temporary layoff. The thinking is, rather than immediately cut you off from your work, with two months advance warning, you'll have a little time to look for something else or retrain for another job. At the very minimum, you won't be caught off guard.
How You'll Be Notified
You could receive your notice by any one of a variety of delivery methods, such as by first class mail or certified mail requiring a receipt. The letter is required by law to contain specific information to make sure you're fully informed, including: the name and address of the employment site where the changes will occur; the name and phone number of a company official as a contact; a statement indicating whether the change is temporary or permanent and whether the entire plant, or a portion thereof, is to be affected; a schedule of when the separation will occur, whether one time or over a period of time; the job titles and the number of people in each job classification to be affected; an explanation regarding the presence of bumping rights (meaning you have seniority and will be moved into a job occupied by someone with less seniority, who has been “bumped” because of the separation); names of the unions representing the affected employees; and the names and addresses of the elected union officials, if any.
If Your Employer Doesn't Notify You
It can get expensive for your qualified employer if she decides to disregard the WARN Act. Not only will the business be liable for paying a potential civil penalty of $500 per day for each day you and other employees weren't notified, you'll be entitled to back pay for every day you weren’t notified in accordance with the act. Your employer will also be liable for the cost of medical expenses you incur (if you have medical benefits) during the time you weren't notified. Employees covered under the California WARN Act who aren't notified of an impending release form employment can contact the California Employment Development Department to find out what they can do about the situation.
Just as there are exceptions to most rules, your employer might be able to take advantage of some exceptions in the WARN Act. For example, if you were hired for a specific project that's been completed, your employer isn't required to notify you in advance of your layoff. Similarly, if you were hired as a temporary or seasonal employee, your employer doesn't need to provide you with notification of your upcoming release. Another exception from notifying you in advance is if the business is a "faltering company" and your employer has seriously attempted to find funding to keep it going. In this situation, if your boss thinks that advising employees of a pending layoff would have a negative impact on her ability to acquire funding, she can forgo notifying workers.
Michelle Reynolds has been writing about business, careers and art since 1993. She was the publisher of a newsletter, “Working Parents Monthly," as well as a graphic design guidebook. Reynolds also served as human-resources director at a resort/spa for eight years. She is an artist and promotes the arts and other artists through ElegantArtisan.com, a website she developed and maintains.