WARNing: Employees are employees…even if they stop coming to work

On September 26th, 2007, a car dealership with multiple franchise locations announced it would be closing its doors in two weeks – and this drove away 80% of its employees within 10 days.


Even though the employer, Gee West Seattle LLC, was left with only 30 employees by closing time, a court decided they had violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act by not distributing the proper WARN notification.


The WARN Act affects mass layoffs and plant closings – here are the basics:


  • If a plant closing or layoff will affect 50 or more employees, the employer must give each “affected employee” a 60-day written notice
  • An “affected employee” is someone who will most likely experience an “employment loss” due to the layoff or closure.
  • Under the WARN Act, an “employment loss” is any “employment termination, other than a discharge for cause, voluntary departure, or retirement.”


The court ruling further defines “voluntary departure” in the WARN Act.  Now, employees who stop showing up to work after a plant closing or impending layoffs are announced can still be counted as employees when measured against WARN Act notice requirements – because they didn’t really leave voluntarily.


Follow up and read Ogletree Deakins’ article on the Gee West case, and, if you’ve got plant closing on the brain, watch the music video for “Closing Time” by Semisonic.


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