On August 5, 2008, Governor Paterson signed into law the New York State Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act (“NY WARN Act”). The NY WARN Act will become effective February 1, 2009. The Act is significantly more expansive than the federal WARN Act with respect to employers covered and the events that trigger the obligation to provide advance notice to employees of impending layoffs.

The federal WARN Act generally requires employers of 100 or more individuals to provide employees with sixty days prior written notice of plant closings or mass layoffs affecting fifty or more employees. The NY WARN Act applies to employers of more than fifty individuals, rather than 100, and requires ninety days prior written notice, as opposed to sixty, for mass layoffs, relocations or plant closings.

Moreover, the NY WARN Act requires employers to provide notice when a mass layoff or plant closing impacts at least twenty-five full-time employees who represent at least 33% of the workforce, in contrast to the federal WARN Act, which sets the trigger at fifty employees. In addition, an employer that relocates all or substantially all of its operations to a location at least fifty miles from its present location must provide ninety-day advanced written notice under the NY WARN Act.

Notice must be given to impacted workers, the New York State Department of Labor, and local workforce investment boards. It is important to note that the state law, like the federal law, is based upon individual workplace sites; however, there are limited instances where multiple work locations are considered a single site of employment. Beginning in February 2009, employers in New York must be cognizant of the differences between the federal and state laws when considering a reduction in employees, a plant closure or relocation.