By Maggie Thurber | Special to Ohio Watchdog
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is trying again with his FOREWARN Act, which is designed to make changes to the 1988 Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.
The Federal Oversight, Reform, and Enforcement of the WARN (FOREWARN) Act was originally introduced June 25, 2009, but died in committee without any action. S.3297 was introduced June 14 and is co-sponsored by Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon.
“A plant closing or mass layoff doesn’t just affect workers, but also their families, the surrounding community and the economic livelihood of nearby businesses. When workers are laid off through no fault of their own, they deserve enough advance notice so that they can begin to search or retrain for new positions,” Brown said. “The current WARN Act has too many loopholes that allow larger businesses to avoid doing the right thing and giving proper advance notice to their employees. While no law can fully help blunt the impact of a plant shutdown or mass layoff, this bill would help protect workers and communities when they do occur.”
The bills are identical and make the following changes to the WARN Act:
- Applies it to employers of 75 or more, a reduction from the currently threshold of 100 employees, and includes in the calculation any parent company of which the business is a subsidiary.
- Requires an employer to give a 90-day written notice of a plant closing or mass layoff. The current notice is 60 days.
- Adds to the required notifications the secretary of labor and the governor of the state in which the closing or layoffs will occur, along with members of Congress, state representatives and unions, if applicable. The notice must include the reason for the plant closing or mass layoff, whether the employer has jobs elsewhere, and a statement of each employee’s right to wages and benefits.
- Requires the employer to provide affected employees with information regarding benefits and services available to them, including unemployment compensation, trade adjustment assistance, COBRA benefits, onsite access to rapid response teams, and certain other services.
- Increases the liability of the employer who violates the required notices to two days pay for each day of violation, including interest on the pay. The current liability is one day of pay.
- Authorizes affected employees to file a complaint with the secretary of labor, who much then investigate and attempt to resolve the complaint.
- authorizes the secretary to bring an action in court to recover on behalf of an affected employee any back pay, including interest, benefits, and liquidated damages due.
- Requires employers to conspicuously post the provisions of this Act and information on the filing of a complaint.
- Requires the secretary maintain a guide on the benefits and services available to affected employees.
- Prohibits any agreement or settlement negotiated on behalf of effected employers to include the waiver of rights and remedies provided under the act, including the right to maintain a civil action.
The bill has been referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.