What you need to know: New Hampshire recently enacted its own Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which covers more employers and more layoffs than its federal counterpart and has stiffer penalties for non-compliance.
What you need to do: NH employers with 75 or more employees should familiarize themselves with the NH WARN Act notice requirements and ensure that they are in compliance if they need to order a plant closing or mass layoff.
New Hampshire WARN Act
Beginning this year, the New Hampshire Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act went into effect. The NH WARN Act requires NH employers with 75 or more employees to give 60 day advance notice of a mass layoff or plant closing to all affected employees, as well as to state and local officials. A “mass layoff” includes an employment loss for as few as 25 full-time employees, if they constitute 33% or more of the employer’s full-time employees. This is in contrast to the federal WARN Act, which covers employers with 100 or more employees, and then only if there is a plant closing or a layoff that affects at least 50 employees.
The NH law’s penalties for failure to give appropriate notice include back pay, the value of benefits to which the employee would have been entitled and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. The civil liability for these amounts is calculated by the period of the employer’s violation—a period that may be as long as 60 days if notice was never given.
Additionally, the NH WARN Act gives the government a proactive role in the enforcement of the law. Not only must an employer give notice to the state Commission of Labor, the state attorney general and the chief elected official of each affected municipality, but the NH Department of Labor can investigate a potential violation of the law on its own—private suits by affected employees are no longer the only avenue of enforcement. In addition to its investigative powers and the penalties noted above, the NH Department of Labor can assess civil fines of up to $2,500 for failure to give notice, and $100 per employee for each day of noncompliance.
With the enactment of its mini-WARN Act, New Hampshire joins the increasing number of states that have adopted their own version of the federal WARN Act. Employers with facilities in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Tennessee and Wisconsin should be aware that those states also have their own versions of the WARN Act. Some additional states have other notification requirements, albeit less onerous ones.