The New Jersey WARN Act and the Coronavirus Epidemic – Update II

On January 21, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law major amendments to the Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act, more commonly referred to as the New Jersey WARN Act (“the Act”). These amendments require employers with 100 or more employees to give 90-days’ advance notice to the affected employees of any reduction in force involving at least 50 employees. Employees not given the required notice may bring a civil action for damages. Even when the employer complies with the Act’s notice requirements, the amendments require the employer to pay the affected employee severance in an amount equal to one week of pay for each year of service. Failure to comply with the notice requirements will entitle each affected employee to an additional four weeks of severance pay. A fuller discussion of the amendments can be found here.

The amendments were to take effect on July 19, 2020, but, because of subsequent actions by the legislature in response to the coronavirus pandemic (see here), the effective date was changed to the 90th day after the termination of Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 103, issued on March 9, 2020, which declared a Public Health Emergency and State of Emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak. Until recently, Executive Order 103 remained in place without change. On June 4, 2021, however, Governor Murphy issued executive Order 244, which modified Executive Order 103 by terminating the Public Health Emergency, while keeping in place the State of Emergency.

This action has raised some concern about whether the clock has begun to run on the 90-day period after which the January 21, 2020 amendments to the Act will go into effect. Fortunately, in a recent court filing in litigation involving a challenge to these amendments, the Office of the Attorney General has taken the position that Executive Order 103 remains in effect and that the 90-day period has not been triggered. We will, of course, keep our readers advised of any future change in status.

Finally, it must be noted that the above discussion is not intended as a detailed analysis of the New Jersey WARN Act’s requirements. The Act is a complicated statute, and New Jersey employers would do well to consult with counsel familiar with the Act before implementing a reduction in force.

If you have questions about any of the above, feel free to contact an attorney in the Gibbons Employment & Labor Law Group.

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