Are you confused about the lawsuit filed on November 3, 2022 against Twitter claiming that its recent and impending layoffs violate the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (the “WARN Act”) and state laws? Here’s what you need to know about the WARN Act and the Twitter lawsuit.
The WARN Act requires employers to provide employees with written notice 60 days in advance of covered mass layoffs. WARN and its implementing regulations define “mass layoffs” as those resulting in an employment loss during any 30-day period for 500 or more employees, or for 50-499 employees if they make up at least 33% of the employer’s active workforce.
Further, “employment loss” is not limited to termination. The term includes employment termination, layoffs exceeding 6 months, or a 50% or greater reduction of an employee’s hours each month of any 6-month period. There are also look-back and look-forward provisions in WARN to prevent employers from structuring layoffs in a way that would otherwise avoid triggering WARN’s notice requirements.
Twitter CEO Elon Musk notified employees on November 3 that Twitter would begin laying off employees in early 2023, but that all employees would receive severance pay. However, one of the five named plaintiffs alleged that he was terminated without notice or severance pay. Further, the complaint alleges that in the coming weeks, Twitter is expected to circulate separation agreements to employees containing a release of rights under state law and the WARN Act. The plaintiffs also seek to prevent Twitter from requesting and securing these releases without advising potential class members of the suit or of their rights under such laws. The plaintiffs’ lawyers want to make sure that there is a meaningful class to represent in the lawsuit; that would not be the case if employees signed off on releases.
The plaintiffs seek injunctive relief, forcing Twitter to conform to the federal and state WARN Acts, which both specify a mandatory 60-day notification period ahead of mass layoffs. Further, the plaintiffs seek injunctive relief forcing Twitter to inform employees of the class action before the separation agreements containing releases are circulated. The plaintiffs are also requesting compensatory damages, including expenses and wages owed.
While it cannot be determined at this point if Twitter actually violated the WARN Act, employers need to consider WARN and state “mini-WARN” laws before conducting mass layoffs or plant closings. An employer that violates the federal WARN act is liable to each affected employee for an amount equal to back pay and benefits for the period of violation, up to 60 days.
If you are considering layoffs, hourly reductions, or plant closings, the labor and employment attorneys at Murtha Cullina are ready and able to assist you in complying with these and other laws.
Join us on December 9, for our Labor and Employment Group’s annual webinar on updates and developments in labor and employment law. Topics to be discussed include state legislative updates in CT, MA and NY, conduct and behavior standards under the ADA, aging at work, free speech in the workplace, pay transparency changes, paid family medical leave, and recent developments in employee benefits law and immigration. For more information and register.