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.
The coverage rules under federal and state law differ.
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.)
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.
Not every layoff or plant closing is covered by federal or state law.
WARN applies only to plant closings and mass layoffs.
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's layoff law applies to:
Both WARN and New Jersey law include notice requirements.
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.
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):
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 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.