We don’t need to tell you there’s a recession going on, and that a recession means layoffs.  But we will remind you that layoffs may implicate the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act – the federal law that requires employers to give 60 days’ notice of certain mass layoffs and plant shutdowns. 

Sometimes giving 60 days’ notice of a layoff just isn’t possible, and the law makes exceptions in some circumstances.  A recent case from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals illustrates one of those exceptions.  In Gross v. Hale-Halsell Co., the employer successfully relied on the "unforeseeable business circumstances" exception to WARN.  In that case, the employer–a grocery wholesaler and distributor–was forced to lay off over 200 employees when its largest customer suddenly dropped its account.  The court held that the employer had no choice but to lay its employees off (the employer subsequently declared bankruptcy), and that it gave as much notice as was practicable under the circumstances. 

Notwithstanding the outcome of Gross, courts are notoriously reluctant to apply the WARN Act exceptions; before relying on an exception to bypass giving notice of a qualifying layoff or plant closure, it is probably a good idea to consult legal counsel.  There is also good, free information from our friends at the U.S. Department of Labor to help guide you through troubled times and to determine whether the WARN Act may apply to you.  Just click below to download the information: