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Do you need to be warned of a coming layoff?

If your employer is going to lay off a number of employees, can that just be done with no notice, perhaps by telling the employees on their last day of work, or do you need to be told in advance?

In many cases, you do need to be given advanced noticed because of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, commonly known as the WARN act. It started being used on Feb. 4, 1989.

The WARN Act covers both the closing of plants and other work facilities and the use of mass layoffs even for plants that are staying open. Individual firings can be done on their own, but layoffs to mass amounts of employees can only happen when those employees are told of the layoffs about two months—60 days—in advance.

Workers may not have to be told directly, though, as representatives can be told. For example, if there is a labor union, the union can be alerted to the coming layoffs, and then the union can tell the individual workers.

The WARN Act does not apply to all companies, but typically just to those with at least 100 employees. Additionally, workers who get under 20 hours of work a week don't count toward this total, nor do workers who have not worked a full six months in the last year. However, temporary workers—such as workers hired for the holidays—do count.

As an employee, you must be aware of all of your rights, even if you don't think that you're in any danger of getting fired. If you have been laid off without warning, you may be able to take legal action in Michigan.

Source: United States Department of Labor, "The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act," accessed Feb. 11, 2016

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