New Jersey Edges Closer to Implementing Landmark WARN Law

By Lauren Marcus, Amber Spataro, Daniel Thieme and David Ostern © Littler December 12, 2022
four workers carrying boxes

​A bill advancing in the New Jersey Legislature would expedite the implementation of significant changes to the state's Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) law, which requires employers to provide notice 60 days in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs.

Back in January 2020, Gov. Philip Murphy signed into law Senate Bill 3170, which radically expanded employers' advance notice and severance pay obligations under the Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act, otherwise known as NJ WARN. 

Shortly thereafter, the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold, which prompted an interest in delaying the implementation of the amendments to NJ WARN. Murphy signed Senate Bill 2353, which delayed the effective date of the amendments to 90 days after the termination of Executive Order 103, the governor's declaration of a state of emergency.

With COVID-19 subsiding, but no foreseeable termination in sight for the emergency declaration, the New Jersey Legislature is working to uncouple the effective date of the 2020 NJ WARN amendments from the emergency declaration. On Oct. 3, lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 3162. Under the proposed legislation, the NJ WARN amendments would take effect 90 days after the enactment of the new law, regardless of whether the state of emergency remains in effect.

The amendments would make several very substantial changes to NJ WARN:

  • Notice is triggered by a termination of 50 or more employees located anywhere in the state (i.e., terminations are not counted separately at different sites of employment) and regardless of tenure or hours of work (i.e., there is no distinction between full-time and part-time employees).
  • The amendments eliminate the rule that a mass layoff is triggered only if at least 33 percent of the workforce is affected.
  • The notice period for a mass layoff or plant closing is increased to 90 days (from 60 currently).
  • Severance pay is automatic, and the law requires employers to provide severance pay equal to one week for each year of service. If the employer fails to give 90 days' notice, the severance obligation is increased by four weeks of pay for each employee.
  • Employees may not waive their right to severance under NJ WARN without state or court approval.
  • The law would apply to employers with at least 100 employees located anywhere in the United States, regardless of tenure or hours of work, so long as the employer has operated in New Jersey for more than three years.

On Dec. 1, Senate Bill 3162 was voted out of committee by a 5-0 vote and has since moved to a second reading. It is eligible for posting to the senate floor for a vote, and the next voting session on the calendar is Dec. 22.

The state Assembly's companion bill, Assembly Bill 4768, was unanimously voted out of committee on Dec. 8. It has not yet been announced whether this bill will also be sent directly to a second reading, but if so, it could be posted to the assembly floor for a vote as soon as Dec. 15.

It remains unclear whether this legislation will get to the governor before the end of the calendar year.

Lauren Marcus, Amber Spataro, and David Ostern are attorneys with Littler in Newark, N.J. Daniel L. Thieme is an attorney with Littler in Seattle. © 2022. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. 



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