Have you been laid off from your job in Vermont? Federal and Vermont law provide certain rights to employees when an employer closes a business or lays off a large number of employees. For example, depending on the size of your employer, you might have the right to advance notice of the layoff or a small amount in severance. (See our Losing or Leaving Your Job page for more information on your rights when you lose your job, including when you should receive your final paycheck and more.)
Employers are subject to Vermont’s Notice of Potential Layoffs Act if they have 50 or more full-time employees, part-time employees each working at least 1,040 hours annually, or a combination of both.
Covered employers must provide notice to employees when they conduct either of the following:
Notice must be given at least 30 days in advance to affected employees, their bargaining agent (if they have one), and the local chief elected officer (the mayor, for example). Notice must also be given 45 days in advance to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development and the Vermont Department of Labor.
However, employers may instead give as much notice as practical when:
Employers are only required to pay severance to employees if they fail to give proper notice required by Vermont’s layoff law. In that case, employees are entitled to:
Vermont employers are also subject to the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act if they have 100 or more full-time employees or 100 or more employees working a combined total of at least 4,000 hours per week. (Under the WARN Act, a full-time employee is someone who works at least 20 hours a week and has worked for the employer for at least six of the 12 months before notice is required.)
WARN applies only if a significant number of jobs are lost through one of the following:
Employers must give at least 60 days’ notice to employees, or if there is a union, to the employees’ union representative. Among other things, the notice must explain the date when layoffs are expected to begin, whether the layoffs are expected to be temporary or permanent, and the date when the employee will receive a termination letter.
In addition, there are some exceptions where a covered employer may give shorter notice or no notice at all. For example, employers may give as much as notice as possible if the layoff or closing is the result of a natural disaster or unforeseeable business circumstances. To learn more about WARN, including the exceptions, see our article on layoffs and plant closings.
If an employer fails to give the notice required by the WARN Act, an employee can collect their wages and benefits for each day of the violation, up to a maximum of 60 days. However, this amount is reduced by any severance voluntarily paid by the employer. For example, if an employer gave no notice under WARN, but paid employees 30 days of severance, it could be required to pay 30 days’ worth of damages.
If your rights have been violated under federal or Vermont law, you should consult with an experienced Vermont employment attorney. You are entitled to attorneys' fees if you win a WARN lawsuit, which gives attorneys an extra incentive to take a good case. Because the damages available to any one employee are relatively low, an attorney might suggest going forward as part of a class action, on behalf of all of the employees who did not get the notice required by WARN. You can also contact the U.S. Department of Labor, or the Vermont Department of Labor, for more information.