On Wednesday, October 31, 2007, the Trade and Globalization Act of 2007 passed the House by a vote of 264-157. The legislation contained H.R. 3796, the Early Warning and Health Care for Workers Affected by Globalization Act, which would lengthen the notice requirement and lower the size of covered employers under the WARN Act. Specifically, the legislation would require employers to give 90-day written notice to employees and appropriate government agencies before ordering a plant closing or mass layoff, as opposed to 60 days notice under current law.
Furthermore, the House-passed bill would affect more employers than current law. An amendment on the floor changed the original definition of H.R. 3796 of “plant closing” and “mass layoff” from job losses of 25 or more to job losses of 50 or more. Employers covered under H.R. 3796 would also need to provide affected employees with information about benefits and services, including unemployment compensation and COBRA benefits, available to them upon losing their job. Employers who fail to comply with the provisions of H.R. 3796 would need to provide double back pay over the 90-day period.
SHRM joined HR Policy Association in sending a letter to the House Education and Labor Committee expressing concerns that the bill would be an unwarranted expansion of the WARN Act and cause serious compliance challenges for HR professionals in large and small organizations. Furthermore, the White House issued a statement on the larger trade bill that objected to the inclusion of H.R. 3796, saying the bill’s “expanded coverage, notice period, and increased penalties could impair the ability of employers to recover from restructuring or to negotiate arrangements that would keep their companies viable and remaining workers employed.”