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Who’s about to lose their job in Houston? Understanding the WARN Act



Passed in 1988, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act is a crucial safety net for workers facing potential job loss. This legislation specifies that businesses with 100 or more full-time workers must issue a WARN notice 60 days before a plant closure or mass layoff.

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Here’s a breakdown of its main features, how it impacts employees and how you can best use the information:

Coverage criteria:

  • Applies to businesses with 100 or more full-time workers.

  • Mandates notice when at least 50 employees are laid off at a single site of employment, or when 100 or more workers, totaling at least 4,000 hours per week, are affected.

  • Encompasses private for-profit businesses, private non-profit organizations and quasi-public entities. Private companies with a public mandate are considered quasi-public corporations.

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When is WARN triggered?

WARN kicks in when:

  • A facility permanently or temporarily closes, affecting at least 50 employees at a single employment site.

  • 500 or more workers are laid off at one site within 30 days, or 50-499 workers are laid off, constituting 33% of the employer’s total active workforce at that site.

  • A temporary layoff under 6 months extends beyond 6 months unexpectedly.

  • The hours of work for 50 or more workers are reduced by 50% or more monthly within a 6-month period.

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Protected employees:

  • Includes hourly, salaried, managerial and supervisory staff, as well as non-strikers.

  • Covers those terminated or laid off for more than six months, with a 50% reduction in hours within 6 months.

  • Extends to workers on temporary layoff with a reasonable expectation of recall, including those on various leaves, and part-time employees.

Penalties for non-compliance:

  • Employers violating WARN are liable to affected employees for back pay and benefits for up to 60 days.

  • Liability may be reduced by wages paid during the notice period or voluntary payments.

  • Failure to notify local government can incur civil penalties, up to $500 per day of violation, unless liabilities to affected employees are settled within three weeks after closure.

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A layoff notice can be found at, along with how many employees will be affected, the county and city and the date of the layoff.

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