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Termination

Notice
Are employers required to give notice of termination?

Outside the context of plant closures and mass layoffs, employers in the United States are not required to provide employees with notice of termination.

Redundancies
What are the rules that govern redundancy procedures?

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act requires private sector employers to give 60 days' notice of mass layoffs and plant closures; it allows a number of exceptions for unforeseen emergencies and other cases.

Several states have adopted more stringent requirements of their own.

Are there particular rules for collective redundancies/mass layoffs?

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) applies to employers of 100 or more employees and provides certain protections to employees involved in plant closings and mass layoffs. WARN requires employers to provide at least 60 days’ advance written notice of covered layoffs and plant closures to affected employees, their representatives and appropriate local government officials. If the employer does not give the required notice, it may be held liable to affected employees for back pay and benefits for the 60-day notice period.

Covered employers are required to notify employees when a plant closure will affect 50 or more employees. An employer must notify employees of a mass layoff if the layoff affects at least one-third of the employees and at least 50 employees at a single site (if 500 or more employees are affected by the layoff, the one-third requirement does not apply). There are some exceptions for WARN’s required 60-day notice period, but many of the exemptions have been narrowly construed.

Some states have enacted laws similar to WARN that may apply to smaller employers and layoffs of fewer employees.

Protections
What protections do employees have on dismissal?

Traditionally – absent a collective bargaining agreement or an individual employment contract, and subject to discrimination protection – an employer is free to discharge an employee at any time with or without cause. However, courts in several states have carved out exceptions to this rule. State courts have held that employees may not be discharged in violation of public policy. Some states have also held that an employee handbook may create an employment contract between the employer and employee. The employer violates this contract if the employee’s discharge is contrary to the terms of the employee handbook. Several states have recognised that an employer may insert language in the handbook conspicuously disclaiming any contractual intent. One state (Montana) has statutorily limited the applicability of the employment-at-will doctrine.

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