As part of a flurry of employment-related laws enacted over the past two years in New Jersey, a recent amendment to the Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act (commonly known as the New Jersey WARN Act) may prove to be the most impactful. The amendment, signed into law by Governor Murphy in January 2020, goes into effect on July 19, 2020.
The amendment will impact certain corporate decisions both before the effective date of July 19, 2020, and going forward. Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the declaration of a national emergency, an employer considering a termination of operations, transfer of operations, or a mass layoff in New Jersey in the near future must ensure that any actions either will not trigger or are completed in full compliance with the New Jersey WARN Act, the federal WARN Act, and any new enactments by federal, state, or local government in response to the COVID-19 crisis. (See also our COVID-19 Labor & Employment Frequently Asked Questions for a discussion of WARN Act issues.)
The amendment’s most significant changes to the New Jersey WARN Act include:
- Expanding coverage so that employers with 100 or more employees—regardless of how many hours the employees work or their length of service—are now potentially subject to the New Jersey WARN Act’s notice requirements. Previously, the New Jersey WARN Act did not count employees who worked fewer than 20 hours per week or had less than six months of service.
- Increasing required notice from 60 days to 90 days when the New Jersey WARN Act is triggered.
- Modifying the definition of a “mass layoff” requiring 90 days’ notice to include the termination of employment of 50 or more employees—full or part time, working at or reporting to an establishment—during any 30-day period. The definition of “establishment” was expanded from a single site of employment to also include a group of locations anywhere in the state. Previously, a mass layoff required advance notice only when either at least 500 full-time employees or 50 full-time employees comprising at least a third or more of the workforce were laid off at a single site of employment in New Jersey during a 30-day period.
- Mandating severance pay of one week for every full year of service to terminated employees when the 90-day notice obligation under the New Jersey WARN Act is triggered. Previously, the New Jersey WARN Act required severance pay only if an employer failed to provide 60 days’ notice. Effective July 19, employers who fail to give the full 90 days’ notice also will have to pay an additional four weeks of severance pay to terminated employees.
Additionally, employees may not waive their right to severance under the New Jersey WARN Act without the approval of the state (the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development) or a court.