On June 11, 2007, the New Jersey Legislature passed the Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notifi cation Act which will require employers to provide additional advance notice of mass layoffs and plant closings beyond that already required by the federal Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notifi cation Act (“WARN Act”). The Bill, A 1044/S-472, is currently awaiting Governor Corzine’s signature.
The current federal law requires employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60 days’ advance notice for certain defi ned mass layoffs and plant closings. The New Jersey law increases the required advanced notice period to 90 days. In addition, the New Jersey law provides a much narrower defense for employers that are required to conduct layoffs or closings as a result of unforeseen business circumstances. The New Jersey counterpart exempts only unforeseen layoffs resulting from fi re, fl ood, natural disaster, natural emergency, acts of war, civil disorder, industrial sabotage, license revocation or decertifi cation from a social security program. Contrary to the WARN Act, an employer who unexpectedly loses a major customer or suffers other business setbacks will not be exempted from the notifi cation requirements. Like its federal counterpart, the New Jersey law provides damages, including lost wages, benefi ts and attorneys’ fees. The New Jersey law, as opposed to the WARN Act, does not expressly provide for any reduction in damages based on the amount of notice given.
The new legislation also creates the New Jersey State Response Team (“SRT”) to assist employees who lose their jobs. The SRT is authorized to provide employees information on employee rights under any law including potential wage and hour, employment discrimination and benefits laws. Employees may seek legal advice from the SRT. New Jersey employers would have to provide SRT access to its employees.
It appears that the SRT may seek to meet and negotiate with employers who plan to conduct mass layoffs or plant closings. The SRT may have leverage to do so by threatening employers with individual employee actions under state and federal law. This legislation continues New Jersey’s reputation as an employee-friendly jurisdiction.
One interesting question not addressed by the current legislation is whether businesses must have 100 employees working within New Jersey to be covered. If New Jersey’s WARN Act is interpreted similar to the New Jersey Family Leave Act, then employees would have rights under the statute if the business enterprise has 100 or more workers nationwide, regardless of how many workers are employed within New Jersey.