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What are the requirements under the California WARN Act?

California's  Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act expands on the requirements of the federal WARN Act and provides protection to employees, their families and communities by requiring employers to give affected employees and other state and local representatives notice 60 days in advance of a plant closing or mass layoff.

Employers covered under California WARN Act are those with 75 or more full-time or part-time employees. As under federal WARN, employees must have been employed for at least six of the 12 months preceding the date of required notice to be counted.

A plant closing, layoff or relocation of 50 or more employees within a 30-day period, regardless of percentage of workforce, requires notice. Relocation is defined as a move to a different location more than 100 miles away

Notice Requirements

California employers must comply with federal WARN Act notice requirements. Under federal WARN Act, an employer must provide written notice 60 days prior to a plant closing or mass layoff to employees or their representative and the state dislocated worker unit (in California, the Employment Development Department, Workforce Services Division). In California, notice must also be given to the Local Workforce Development Areas and the chief elected official of each city and county government within which the termination, relocation or mass layoff is to occur. The California Employment Development Department (EDD) website lists the Local Workforce Development Areas by County.

To notify employees, any reasonable method of delivery designed to ensure receipt of the notice at least 60 days before a plant closing or mass layoff is acceptable (e.g., first-class mail or personal delivery with optional signed receipt). In the case of notification directly to affected employees, insertion of a notice into pay envelopes is another viable option; however, a ticketed or preprinted notice regularly included in each employee's paycheck or pay envelope does not meet the requirements.

When notifying the EDD, employers may provide notification by e-mail. Notification can be provided as an attachment to the e-mail or within the body of the e-mail. If notification is being provided as an attachment, it should be compatible with Microsoft Office or Adobe Acrobat Reader software. Employers should include contact information in the body of the e-mail in the event that an attachment cannot be opened. Employers may request acknowledgment of the receipt of notification by adding the request to the body of the e-mail. 

All notices submitted to the State Dislocated Worker Unit (System Support Section, Workforce Services Division) and chief elected official of the unit of local government must be in writing and should include the following content:

  • The name and address of the employment site where the plant closing or mass layoff will occur.
  • The name and telephone number of a company official to contact for further information.
  • A statement as to whether the planned action is expected to be permanent or temporary and, if the entire plant is to be closed, a statement to that effect.
  • The expected date of the first separation and the anticipated schedule for making separations.
  • The job titles of positions to be affected and the number of affected employees in each job classification.
  • An indication as to whether bumping rights exist.
  • The name of each union representing affected employees.
  • The name and address of the chief elected officer of each union.

Exceptions to Notice Requirements

There are several circumstances under the California WARN Act in which a covered employer contemplating a trigger event may be permitted to provide less than 60 days' notice or no notice, depending on the circumstances:

  • California WARN Act does not apply when the closing or layoff is the result of the completion of a particular project or undertaking of an employer subject to Wage Orders 11, 12 or 16, regulating the Motion Picture Industry, or Construction, Drilling, Logging and Mining Industries, and the employees were hired with the understanding that their employment was limited to the duration of that project or undertaking.
  • The notice requirements do not apply to employees involved in seasonal employment where the employees were hired with the understanding that their employment was seasonal and temporary.
  • Notice is not required if a mass layoff, relocation or plant closure is necessitated by a physical calamity or act of war.
  • Notice of a relocation or termination is not required where, under multiple and specific conditions, the employer submits documents to the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) and the DIR determines that the employer was actively seeking capital or business, and a WARN notice would have precluded the employer from obtaining the capital or business (California Labor Code Section 1402.5). This exception does not apply to notice of a mass layoff as defined in California Labor Code Section 1400 (d).

Employer Liability

An employer who fails to give required notice before ordering a mass layoff, relocation, or termination may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $500 per day for each day of violation. In addition, an affected employee may receive back pay at the employee's final or three-year average rate of pay, whichever is higher. The employer is also liable for the cost of any benefits to which the employee would have been entitled had his or her employment not been lost, including the cost of any medical expenses incurred by the employee that would have been covered under an employee benefit plan. The employer is liable for a period of violation up to 60 days or one-half the number of days the employee was employed, whichever period is smaller (California Labor Code Sections 1402 and 1403).

Suit may be brought in "any court of competent jurisdiction." The court may award reasonable attorneys' fees as part of costs to any prevailing plaintiff. Additionally, the California Labor Commissioner has the authority to examine the books and records of an employer (California Labor Code Sections 1404 and 1406).

See Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Information for Employers.


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