The New Jersey WARN Act: It’s Now Got Real Teeth!

After languishing on the desk of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy for several years, New Jersey’s amended WARN Act was finally signed by the Governor on January 10, 2023, with an effective date of April 10, 2023. The amendments contained in the new law provide strong protections for New Jersey employees who lose their jobs in a “mass layoff”—protections far stronger than those provided by any other state’s law and stronger even than those provided by the federal WARN Act.

Here are some of the key changes made in the law with the passage of the NJ WARN Act amendments:

  • Covered Employers (Part 1): The law applies to any employer that, for at least the last three years, has employed 100 or more employees anywhere in New Jersey. To determine if an employer has employed 100 or more employees, both full-time and part-time employees must be counted (the old law counted only full-time employees).
  • Covered Employers (Part 2): In determining if any employer has 100 or more employees in New Jersey, employees at all the employer’s locations throughout the State must be counted, even if they are employed at different offices or buildings in the State. (The old law applied only if there was a layoff at a single location employing 100 or more employees);
  • “Mass Layoff”: If, within a 30-day period, a covered employer lays off 50 or more employees, the newly amended NJ WARN Act now considers that a “mass layoff.” The 50 impacted employees need not all be at the same location, so if, for example, a covered employer lays off 20 employees at one location and 30 employees at another location, that constitutes a “mass layoff.” (Under the old law, the 50 affected employees all had to work at the same location.)
  • Advance Notice Required: New Jersey employers must now give 90 days’ advance notice before implementing any “mass layoff” (the old law required only 60 days’ notice);
  • Severance Pay Required: [The Act’s “sharp teeth”]: Even if the employer has given 90 days’ notice before implementing a mass layoff, it must still pay every laid-off employee one week’s severance for each year of service. [Under the old law, severance pay had to be paid only where the employer had failed to give the required 60 days’ notice.] Importantly, there is no “cap” on the amount of severance pay that must be paid, and so, an employee who has worked for the employer for 30 years gets 30 weeks of severance pay. Moreover, the severance pay must be paid out in a single “lump sum” included in the employee’s final paycheck.
  • Liability for Individual Owners or Managers: The new law greatly expands the range of individuals and businesses that can be held liable for the mandatory severance pay, including potentially managers involved in the decision to lay off employees, corporate officers, and private equity firms involved in the sale or purchase of a shuttered business.
  • The Right to File Suit: The new WARN Act gives affected New Jersey employees the right to file suit if their employer fails to pay them the severance pay due following a mass layoff. In addition to recovering severance pay, an employee filing suit can also recover his or her costs and attorney’s fees incurred in bringing the suit.

If you believe you are about to be affected or have been affected by a mass layoff, we encourage you to reach out to the experienced New Jersey employment lawyers at Schall & Barasch. We encourage you to fill out and submit the questionnaire on our site or, if you prefer, give us a call at 856-914-9200.

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