NY DOL Issues Revised WARN Regulations

August 25, 2010

By: Colin M. Leonard

Earlier this year, we posted on the New York State Department of Labor’s new regulations governing New York’s WARN Act, the state statute that requires certain employers to provide 90 days notice to employees, their employees’ unions, if any, and to government agencies, before engaging in certain actions which result in losses of employment. In July, the New York DOL issued revised emergency regulations which replace and supersede the existing regulations. The revisions are not extensive. However, a few of the changes may be significant for New York employers contemplating some form of reduction in force or work hours.

First, the new regulations change the definition of the term “affected employee” by stating that it does not include an officer, director, or shareholder. The initial regulation only excluded business partners, and consultants and contract employees who have employment relationships with other employers or who are self-employed.

Only employers with 50 or more employees are covered by New York’s WARN Act. The revised regulations impact coverage determinations by defining the point in time for measuring the number of employees as the date the first notice would be required to be given under the Act.

The revised regulations also make some minor modifications to the required content of the notices which must be provided. More significantly, the revised regulations now apply the notice requirements to employer decisions rescinding a previously issued notice of plant closing, mass layoff, relocation or covered reduction in hours. In other words, when an employer has given notice required by the Act, but then determines that it will not need to engage in the action for which notice was provided, it must use the same notice process to inform affected employees, their unions and the government that it is rescinding its decision.

Finally, the regulations provide that when an employer relies on one of the statutory exceptions, (unforeseeable business circumstances, a natural disaster and the faltering company exception) as a justification for not providing the 90-day notice, it must provide documentation to support the exception.

The revised regulations are still lengthy and complex. Any New York employer contemplating any form of reduction in employment, including a reduction in hours should carefully consider whether the regulations apply and, if so, how it will satisfy the regulatory requirements.