Companies are laying off workers left and right these days, especially in the oil industry. While some companies are following all the rules and giving employees adequate time to find another job, some companies are not giving employees the mandatory 60 day warning period required under the WARN act. The WARN act is a federal law mandating that employers must provide employees with a written notice of their termination at least 60 days before the plant or company operations are to be shut down.
In Texas, a company is currently being sued by a group of employees who were fired at oilfield operations in North Dakota and Midland Texas for telling their employees verbally that their jobs would be ending that day. The employees filed a class action lawsuit, accusing their former employer of violating the WARN Act. Layoffs in an oil bust are not unusual, but if your company acted in a similar manner to the one being accused of violating the WARN Act, you might be eligible to recover the back pay and benefits they would have owed you if they had followed the law and given you 60 days' written notice.
Who is Protected by the WARN Act?
The WARN act protects hourly wage workers, salaried employees, managers, and supervisors who work for companies with more than 100 employees. It was designed to help workers find new jobs or enter job retraining before they are laid off. Companies are supposed to provide written notice to labor unions, to local elected officials such as the local mayor, and to the state’s dislocated worker unit.
People who aren’t protected by the WARN act include:
- Temporary workers
- Workers who have worked for fewer than six months in past 12 months
- Workers who work fewer than twenty hours a week
- Workers who are on strike or are participating in a labor dispute
- Business partners
- Contract employees
- Regular federal, state, government, and local employees
Are There Exceptions to the WARN Act?
The exception to the 60 day rule is if a company needs to shut down operations before the 60 day period is over due to unforeseen circumstances. If that is the case, the company has to give a good reason to explain why they have to cut down on the 60 day warning period, such as waiting 60 days would bankrupt them.
Companies who layoff less than a third of their workforce if they employ between 50 and 499 employees may be exempt from the WARN Act. Also, if fewer than 50 workers are laid off at a single plant or job site, the company may be exempt from the WARN Act.
For oilfield workers, a "plant site" means the single site at which they worked. So, if the entire crew of a drilling rig was laid off, that would be a mass layoff at a plant site. In the case of the company being sued in Texas, more than 200 employees in Midland, Texas, were told their jobs were gone that day, and were not given any warning or anyone at the company to contact about their termination.
What Can You do if You Think Your Company Violated the WARN Act?
If you were part of mass layoffs at a plant or work site, and you were not given 60 days written notice that your job would be ending, you might be eligible to be compensated for an amount equal to what you would have made in back pay and benefits. For oilfield workers and plant workers who typically worked more than 80 hours a week, this could be a substantial amount of money the company could owe you.
To find out if your employer violated the WARN Act and if you’re entitled to back pay and benefits, you should contact an attorney who has experience going up against companies and corporations in the courtroom and winning. For a lawsuit to be filed against your employer, you will need to determine if your employer did conduct a mass layoff at your job site, if they violated any part of the WARN Act, and if the company lacks sufficient reason for shortening the 60 day period of time.
Our attorneys can help you determine if any and all of these factors occurred when you were laid off and if you are eligible to file a lawsuit against your employer. You can contact our attorneys to discuss your potential case at 877.724.7800 or by filling out a contact form.