New Jersey Layoff Laws

Under federal and New Jersey law, employees have the right to notice of layoffs and plant closings.

By , J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

Employees In New Jersey have certain rights when their employer conducts a mass layoff, closes a facility, or otherwise cuts a significant number of jobs. Unfortunately, those rights don't include an entitlement to keep their jobs or be considered for other positions at the company. Employers are free to shape their workforces as they see fit by downsizing, relocating, or otherwise responding to shifting economic incentives.

However, employees do have the right to a certain amount of notice before a plant closing or large-scale layoff. If the employer fails to give proper notice, employees are entitled to damages.

These rights are guaranteed by the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. Almost half of the states have similar laws, and New Jersey is among them. New Jersey law requires advance notice of layoffs, and requires employers who don't provide the required notice to pay severance.

This article provides basic information on the rights of New Jersey employees under the federal WARN Act and New Jersey law. For more information on your rights when you are laid off (including when you should receive your final paycheck and how to continue your health benefits), see the articles at our Losing or Leaving Your Job page.

Which Employers Are Covered?

The coverage rules under federal and state law differ.

Employers Covered by WARN

The WARN Act requires certain larger employers to give advance notice of mass layoffs or plant closings that will result in a certain number or percentage of employees losing their jobs. Employers are covered only if they have at least 100 full-time employees or at least 100 employees who work a combined 4,000 hours or more per week. (Full-time employees are defined as those who work at least 20 hours a week and have been employed for at least six of the 12 months ending on the date when notice must be given under WARN.)

Employers Covered by New Jersey Law

Under New Jersey law, employers are covered if they have operated a business establishment for at least three years and have 100 or more employees.

Which Layoffs Are Covered?

Not every layoff or plant closing is covered by federal or state law.

Federal WARN Act

WARN applies only to plant closings and mass layoffs.

  • A plant closing is the shutdown of a single site of employment, or at least one facility or operating unit within a single site of employment, which results in job loss for 50 or more full-time employees during any 30-day period. A single site of employment is simply one geographical location of an employer's operations, such as a building, an office suite, or a group of buildings that form a campus or industrial park. Even work areas that are physically separate can be a single employment site if they are reasonably close together, used for the same purpose, and share the same staff and equipment.
  • A mass layoff is a reduction in force resulting in job loss at a single site of employment for 500 or more full-time employees, or for 50 to 499 full-time employees, if the number of employees laid off makes up at least 33% of the employer's active workforce.

WARN also applies to plant closings or mass layoffs that occur in stages over 90 days. This rule is intended to prevent employers from getting around WARN's notice requirements by conducting a series of smaller layoffs over time.

New Jersey Law

New Jersey's layoff law applies to:

  • mass layoffs, in which at least 500 full-time employees, or at least 50 full-time employees that represent at least a third of the full-time employees at that establishment, lose their jobs, or
  • the termination or relocation of operations, resulting in job loss for at least 50 full-time employees.

What Notice Is Required?

Both WARN and New Jersey law include notice requirements.

Required Notice

If a layoff or plant closing is covered by WARN and/or New Jersey law, employees who will lose their jobs are entitled to notice 60 days in advance. (Employees who are union members need not receive individual notice; instead, the employer must notify their bargaining reps, who are expected to pass the information along to the affected employees.)

The notice must provide specified information about the planned layoffs, including whether they are expected to be temporary or permanent, the expected date when the layoffs will begin and when the employee will receive a termination letter, and whether the employee will have bumping rights.

Exceptions Under WARN

In some situations, an employer either does not have to give notice at all or can give less than 60 days' notice. WARN doesn't require employers to give notice if they are laying off temporary or seasonal employees, or the layoffs are the result of temporary projects that are completed, as long as the employees knew when hired that the jobs were for a limited time. WARN also doesn't apply to job losses occasioned by strikes or lockouts.

Under WARN, an employer can give less than 60 days notice if one of these exceptions applies (the employer must still give as much notice as possible and explain why it couldn't give the full 60 days that would otherwise be required):

  • Unforeseeable business circumstances. If the business circumstances leading to the plant closing or layoff were not reasonably foreseeable when the employer should have given 60 days' notice, a shorter notice period is allowed.
  • Faltering company. If a company is struggling financially when it should have given 60 days' notice, it can give a shorter period of notice. However, the company must show that it was actively seeking business or money that would have allowed it to postpone or avoid the plant closing altogether, and that it reasonably believed, in good faith, that giving 60 days' notice would have precluded it from obtaining the necessary business or money. This exception applies only to plant closings, not mass layoffs.
  • Natural disasters. If the layoff or plant closing results from a natural disaster, the employer is allowed to give less than 60 days' notice.

Severance Under New Jersey Law

An employer that does not provide notice at least 60 days in advance, as required by law, must pay all full-time employees who lose their jobs one week of severance for each year of employment. Note that this benefit kicks in only if the employer doesn't give notice.

If Your Rights Have Been Violated

If you believe your rights have been violated, you should consult with an experienced New Jersey employment lawyer. WARN includes the right to attorney fees if you win, so it provides an incentive for lawyers to take strong cases. However, the damages available to any one employee are relatively low. Therefore, a lawyer may advise either trying to negotiate a settlement or going forward on behalf of all affected employees, as part of a class action lawsuit.

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